I bought my plastic XL 5 years from a local outfitter who had used it for a season to teach kayaking to beginners as well as on guided overnight trips off the coast of Maine. It's perfect for both as it's incredibly stable and has enormous storage capacity.
I was relieved to read other reviews that confirm it's very difficult to keep on track without the rudder (I was afraid it was my lack of skill) and you can forget about going downwind without it...
After taking a rolling class this Spring and trying out a Nigel Foster Legend, I've come to realize that my XL is an aircraft carrier and while it's been fun and easy to drive, it's not contributing to my progress as a paddler.
The Legend, which is an expert's boat gave me a taste of what a "real" kayak is and how much I have to learn in order to be worthy of one, so I'm thinking that it's time for me to move on to something more challenging...
However, if you're a beginner looking for something safe and stable that's able to maintain decent speed, or if you're planning to do a lot of treking and need a platform that will haul your gear - this is your boat. (I'm hoping I can convince my wife to let me keep it)I must be the only short guy (5'7" 175)to have purchased one of these plastic aircraft carriers. I considered a standard Sealution II, but I'd heard the small volumed bow
would purl. Well nothing purls this log.
Needless to say, when I go over, I just pop out. Got it as my first sea kayak four years ago. The ginormous rudder should have been the obvious indicator of it's tracking performance, which is nil when the rudder is up. Loaded, unloaded, flat water, four foot seas, it wants to go anywhere but straight. The problem abated a little when I altered trim by moving the seat back two inches. Rudder down and no worries. The rudder is so huge, it must have multiplier effect when it's up and the wind is abeam.
The boat pierces through the surf zone well, must me all that weight. Trying to turn it in the surf zone is one of those experiences I will not soon forget and never repeat. It is very tough however. People like it's appearance. It's seat is comfortable. It holds its speed well, if you can keep from jinking the rudder too much. I'm going to keep it as a freighter, for that extended cruise I haven't taken yet.
Got a Arctic Tern 14 for what I really do, which is day trips in areas with surf zones. What a difference 35 pounds weight savings and a chine hull makes. The AT14 made me realize I actually do have some decent kayaking skills. It's beautiful and light and has a sophisticated hull. Now I even look down my nose at the fiberglass fatties with their $3,000 price tags and droll serial numbers.Beautiful boat. I had loads of fun for a week up in the Adirondacks. It glides smoothly, tracks well and very comfortable. I am 6'3" and 225# but I still have plenty of room. I have packed enough gear for two people. The rudder works well. Rudder is not too sensative that it makes it hard to stay straight but still turns well.
Reason I gave it a nine was because it is made of fiberglass and I have to be careful with it (No rocks). Also it is so long it is a little hard getting it up on the roof carrier.