-- Last Updated: Jun-20-12 8:35 AM EST --
As above, once you capsize in the thing you can't likely do an on water self rescue, and get the water out of it, to be able to get on your way and to safety. Swimming to shore with a boat loaded with very dangerous amounts of water right behind you is not something to be taken lightly. Swimming in surf without that is not something to be taken lightly unless you have some time in that.
If capsizing and swimming is your approach to challenging water, I agree with the idea of at least getting a SOT.
Your idea of staying close to shore won't work if you find yourself alongside a beach with major waves. You will either have to be well out beyond the waves, which means you are far enough out to have a real challenge making it in safely or dealing with a capsize, or you are tumbling in surf nearer shore. Neither is where this boat should be.