Short "Play" Sea Kayaks

I may be in the market for a new boat. I’m leaning towards shorter, more maneuverable, bombproof plastic boats.

I would like a boat that has a little speed, but that wont be a primary attribute for sure. I already have a “fast” boat and this will be for play and will likely be ground against oyster reefs, dumped in surf zones and generally beat to freakin’ death.

Would appreciate anyone have some experience that would be willing to share?

Currently looking at Jackson Journey, Dagger Alchemy and a Delphin.


all 3 are good chocies
I have paddled all 3 you listed, and own an Alchemy. All would be good choices.

Delphin surfs a little better than the Alchemy, and holds a bit more speed. Dephin is also heaviest, and most expensive, of the group. Alchemy is more maneuverable. Haven’t done a direct comparison of Journey against these, but likely similar to Alchemy.

Alchemy huh?
Are you pretty satisfied with it? How about the skeg? I figured it may be a little better for surf play and keeping the boat locked down on the water a little better than those with rudders.

what about Romany Surf RM?

Also Alchemy
I took out all the stiffening hardware and moved the seat back. Ahhh. Perfect.

I stayed away from the Delphin because I didn’t like the idea of the day hatch being placed up front.

Valley Avocet
I bought a Valley Avocet RM for a play boat. I bought in December so I haven’t really had enough paddling with it yet but it does roll very easily. Easier than either the Delphin 150 or 155 as I have rolled with both of those.

Iam surprised by the other poster saying the Alchemy is more maneuverable than the Delphi as I thought the Delphin really turns fast, but since I have never paddled the Alchemy I will assume he is correct. The Delphin can out turn my Avocet.

Plus the Avocet is for small to medium paddles at the most were a Delphin 155 can take a much larger paddler. Plus they make the Alchemy in 2 sizes for what ever size you happen to be. The Delphin 150 fit me best in the Delphins and iam 5’8" about 165 pounds.

My bet is any of those choices would work well. My only concern is the Alchemy If I remember correctly has some metal brace down the middle which kinda indicates its not as structurally strong as the others?? Unless Iam remembering wrong about the metal brace?

Good luck finding a Romany surf plastic. They are around as I have seen one but the NDK website is WRONG about the size paddler it says it takes. On the website even though they haven’t made that kayak for several years now it says its for paddlers from 5’4", which is incorrect. I emailed NDK and they gave me the correct info on it. They have wrong info on it and they admitted so BUT still never fixed the website probably because they haven’t made that kayak in years. Rumor is they will make a new one in the next year or two. Oh the plastic Romany is for larger paddlers it is NOT the same size as the fiberglass versions, plus it came in two different plastics. A single layer plastic which was rather lacking in stiffness and what they called Triple Dump which was the better one much stiffer.

My experience was that I fit quite comfortably in the RM Romany Surf (6’0, 190), but the cockpit in the glass version was a good deal too roomy. I have no idea what, if anything, has changed between various model years with those boats.

For what it’s worth, I found it to be quite a good surfer, although I’d rate the Delphin higher for overall playfulness. Also, the interface between the glass cockpit rim and the RM hull on the Romany leaked rather significantly.

Delphin Surf, or Valley Gemini SP
For what you describe, I think the Delphin or Gemini SP would be worthy choices. The Gemini is a bit more nimble, in my experience. And the fit is between the Delphin 155 and 150. You describe “beating the hell out of” the boat, and for that reason I’d stay away from the Jackson Journey - it surfs and handles well, but it’s relatively lightly built, appropriate for the transitional use it’s designed for.

For that matter, I’d choose a Delphin “surf” model (single dump), since the 3-layer delphins are not as tough as I’d like for real rock-play. Cracks on the inner layer are not bad to repair, but are not uncommon with heavy use.

The Gemini SP surfs in two directions really nicely, and has a more vee-d shape than the delphin, so I think the 3-layer will hold up better. Also it has a real day hatch. The primary isn’t as reassuring as the Delphin.

holy cow
I just asked the OP if he’d thought of it.

BTW, I’ve seen two in the last three months here in the classifieds.

Your size?
You didn’t mention your size, but for me at 6’2", 230 with size 12 feet the Alchemy was too small. I went with a Delphin 155, plenty of room and as they say, “turns on a dime and leaves you change”. The Journey was plenty big enough and a solid boat, but wasn’t very playful.


– Last Updated: May-28-14 2:35 PM EST –

Now that sounds like a pretty good endorsement for the Delphin.

I currently have a Journey and have really enjoyed it. I have found it to be quick on the turn and easy to put on edge. I would consider it to be a playful boat.
So if you're saying the Delphin is more maneuverable, you definitely have my attention.

Although the Journey has been a great boat, it finally has hull damage that may be beyond repair.
I'll give the Delphin a closer look for sure.
Normandy looks good too!

Delphin is a great boat
Excellent for long-boat surfing, rock gardening and the like but still paddles, more or less, like a sea kayak. If you want to consider something even more towards the “play” end of the spectrum, check out the P&H Hammer. It’s not the boat you want for extended distance paddles, but boy oh boy is it playful.

nate - have you paddled one?
I really like what I hear about the delphin but one look at the hammer says it’s designed for surf. My question is how far would you take it to get to the surf or rocks, and how far would be too much?


– Last Updated: May-28-14 4:39 PM EST –

I own a Delphin and I've paddled the Hammer several times. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to do any straight-up surfing with the Hammer; all of my experience with it has been in rock gardens.

My take is that if someone is looking for a playful sea-kayak, I would unhesitatingly recommend the Delphin, because in addition to being very fun in surf/rocks/etc it's a perfectly fine day-boat for general paddling. My biggest knock against it is the lack of a day-hatch. The tiny hatch in front of the cockpit is essentially worthless for anything larger than a pair of sunglasses.

The Hammer is a rather different animal. A good metaphor might be that it's the sea kayak equivalent of a WW playboat. In terms of how long is too long, the answer obviously depends a lot on your individual tolerance. The first time I paddled it, we had about a 2 mile return paddle in rather feisty swells and wind, and it was a bit of a slog to try to keep up with the rest of the group in sea kayaks. I think anything much longer than that and I'd probably take something else. Returning to the playboat metaphor, the Hammer is definitely about the destination, rather than the journey.

All that being said, If I was paddling more than a handful of days a year on the ocean any longer, I'd probably order a Hammer straight away.

p.s. Here's a cool Hammer vid:

thanks - great video!

– Last Updated: May-28-14 4:46 PM EST –

So quick at reversing, it looks effortless. My heart tells me that's the one but based on yours and others' descriptions, everything else tells me the Delphin.

My wallet tells me I only need one kayak, but my wallet doesn't know crap about kayaking!


Nice video!
On the OP question, see my review of the Delphin here. If it and the Hammer were 15-20lb lighter, they’d be perfect for what they are meant to do (I’d trade some toughness for the more lively handling and easy carry that come with a lighter boat)

Out of curiosity
What are you paddling now, slush?

If you’re limited to only one boat, though, I’d recommend the Delphin over the Hammer unless you knew that the vast majority of your paddling was going to be surfing and relatively short-range rock-hopping.

That, or tell your wallet to #$@% off :wink:

explorer lv
I liked it more the first few years I had it, and did more trips. Now I take every chance I can get to just get out and goof around in conditions.