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The cockpit is just a bit longer than many models which makes it easy enter and exit both on shore and in the water for a little swimming or snorkeling. It's wide enough to be stable yet trim enough to paddle efficiently. While only 12 feet in length, it tracks extremely well plus the hull design has a bit of chine which makes it very maneuverable on edge.
All in all, this is a great boat for a beginning paddler but one that will also enable them to practice more advanced skills when ready. And it's a great boat for intermediate to advanced paddlers looking for a little boat in which to relax. At 41 lbs it is easy to load, store, carry, and launch.
I got my Skylark without thigh braces so I could enter and exit more easily on the water, but I have no trouble jamming my knees & thighs up under the nicely padded hull in front of the seat for carving turns.
Based solely on performance and on providing a nicely designed boat for the day paddler who wants a lot more than a floating barge, I would give this boat a 10. However, I have to mark it down because the seat is fixed and therefore is not adjustable (or replaceable) and many will find the hard plastic seat uncomfortable for more than an hour of paddling. While you can always add a little bit of cushioning to the seat, the fact that you cannot adjust the seat bottom at all for trim is disappointing and should be considered before purchase. I also sliced my thumb open the first time I picked it up to carry on my shoulder due to a sharp edge on the cockpit coaming that should have been smoothed out before shipping. The Sandpiper is a great boat that bridges the gap between "recreational" and "touring" classifications, but a little more attention to finish and an adjustable seat are needed to get a 10.
Demo this one and prepare to buy it. I'm 6'0 200 and it fits me like a glove. One of my complaints with the Tempest was that the cockpit was too small. I couldn't get in and out of that sucker! No worries with the Skylark!
However I do want to do some real sea kayaking expeditions in the southern gulf islands, and was advised that this boat should not be taken there as it will be too difficult to control in big seas, and to do self rescue in. I'm definitely eyeing one of the skylarks bigger siblings for next year. But I think I'll keep it because it is just too much fun.
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