I've had my Carolina 14 for about 2 years now. I can't say enough good things about this boat. I had previously been paddling a 10' rec kayak and the transition from it to the Carolina 14 was very easy.
The Carolina's initial stability is excellent. With the rudder, it tracks great and it paddles well, even in rough choppy water. The seat is very comfortable with adjustments to lift your thighs and the back has about 4" of adjustment up and down. For overnight trips it has a ton of storage space. In fact, on a recent overnight camping trip I chose it over my sea kayak just so I could take some extra luxuries.
If you're looking to upgrade from a smaller rec kayak, this boat would be an excellent choice.I bought the Carolina 14 as a trainer for expedition paddling and find that the kayak is a smooth, straight runner that edges beautifully. I have only had it for a month, but the Carolina is my go to boat now. I had a Jackson Journey for about three weeks and finally sold it out of disgust.
There are a couple of things I would change about the Carolina though... first off, the foot pegs are a pain to lock, the rod bounces out too fast and I have to reset the pegs every time I go for a paddle. the hatches are a little small for a 14 foot kayak and the lack of a cup holder is evident. No rudder needed for this one though, it goes exactly where you are looking.I bought this boat approximately 4 years ago from the LL Bean outlet used, and I loved it from the moment I first sat in it. It didn't come with a rudder and I have only had a few occasions where wished I had one; to make paddling with the wind behind me a little easier, but all kayaks have that issue. I have taken this boat out in all weather and any where from a quiet still lake to the choppy and wavy ocean, and it performs like a champ every time. The only time I have had ever had issues is maneuvering it through a narrow winding stream...at 14' it just isn't built for that and when the boat is longer than the stream is wide turning around is interesting to say the least.
The storage areas at the front and back of the boat are great for day and weekend trips, although I would check the seals first if you are putting anything in there that you really don't want to get wet as mine do leak. The seat is comfortable but I do find that my butt hurts after a few hours of paddling, and it tracks well even without the rudder. I'm female, 5' 6" and I use a 240cm paddle. I feel like the lower height of the deck is a great advantage over other boats.
This was/is my first boat and I will never sell it even though I now need a boat with a bigger cockpit to accommodate my dog; my love of this boat is making everything else I try pale in comparison.I am going to write this review how I would want to read it. This kayak is amazing. I have it in blue and white and it looks super legit. The kayak is incredible fast and it is very very light. If you thought of getting an airlite kayak, it is not necessary. It has a very comfortable seat, thigh pads, and foot rests. I didn't get it with a rudder because I didn't like the one that came on it, but I will probably put one on it eventually. It turns very easy, yet tracks super well. It does like to try to whip a 180 when I paddle into the wind, but any kayak wants to do that.
I bought this boat because I moved from the ocean to a lake and didn't really need a sea kayak anymore (Perception Shadow). I couldn't even tell the difference between the two when it comes to rolling. Any roll I tried worked great, even hand rolling. The back hatch is big enough that when I take kids for rides they just rid in there with there legs extended. I would highly recommend this kayak.
If you are wondering why I didn't pick the other kayaks, here are my reasons for all the other main competitors. The Wilderness Systems Tsunami, that boat is straight up ugly to me, I have also heard horror stories about WS customer service. The Dagger Axiom was my second choice, but I didn't like the fact that it didn't have those lines on the bottom used for tracking.
Hope this is helpful!