The Axiom 9.0 is a great intermediate/advanced WW boat for a larger paddler. (I'm 6' and 230 pounds.) I started with a Dagger Mamba 8.5, The Mamba is a great beginner boat--utterly bomb-proof. But the Mamba is relatively slow, hard to control, and lousy for attaining. The Axiom definitely is an improvement in all of those areas. I'm able to do moves in the Axiom I just couldn't do in the Mamba. The Axiom is what my kayak instructor paddles.
Also, you can surf and do tricks in the Axiom, which just ain't gonna happen in the Mamba.
Here are the negatives:
-Daggers, in general, tend to be a bit leaky. But hey, it's a water sport. -The Axiom has a flat, edgy, low volume stern, so it is much less forgiving than the Mamba. If you don't have good posture and you sit back too far, you likely will find yourself practicing your squirts unintentionally. The Axiom also is more likely to catch an edge and flip you. When upgrading to an Axiom, have a solid roll or a buddy available for a bow rescue. - The new Daggers have a poorly-designed seat-adjustment mechanism. Unlike my Mamba that bolts the seat at discrete positions, my Axiom has a screw-locking mechanism that locks the seat into position on a continuous track. I have found the seat to push backwards when I push too hard on the foot rests while trying to roll. This design problem can be mooted by putting a PVC tube or the like into the seat-adjustment track to prevent the seat from slipping backwards. -I had a pretty solid roll in my Mamba. I'm basically starting over learning my roll again in the Axiom. As mentioned, the Axiom is less forgiving of bad posture.
I found the 9.0 extremely easy to roll, not any harder than the 8.5 and certainly easier than my sea kayaks. Perhaps the other reviewer needs to modify his sea kayak based roll a bit for the way a white water boat rolls - the Axiom is amongst the easiest to roll.
The 9.0 catches and stays on river waves about as easy if not easier than the 8.5. It is a bit longer and a bit wider, so overall speed is probably similar, but the bigger volume means there is less draft and thus it spins and sides about more easily than the 8.5. The 8.5 is a lot more maneuverable, more nimble, more edgy. The 9.0 is more confidence-inspiring in "funny" water at the edge of eddies or side-surfing in a hole.
Both the 9.0 and the 8.5 I find easy to control on the wave and during cross-ferry. To me they are great for those who want to play the river but don't want to get a full-on playboat and want to have speed for attainments.
So a 10, as I have not found any particular issues with the boats for their intended use. Perhaps, I would prefer a slightly higher and closer together knees position, but some like it as it is - that's a personal thing - so I won't ding the rating for this.
To me the 9.0 (for my weight) behaves like a solid high-volume river runner. The 8.5 is a fun and more playful and agile river runner. I had both the 8.5 and 9.0 concurrently for several months in order to pick one. Sold the 9.0 because I mainly play on my local run. If I was mostly doing downriver runs, I would have kept the 9.0 instead. So either might be the "right" boat - depends on the paddler weight, dimensions, and intended use.
The 9.0 and the 8.0, as any other surfing boat, completely change their character when they are on a smooth big wave. When they begin to plane and pop out, they fly - that's when one can use these edges to carve and do cutbacks on the wave face. On the Potomac at flood levels some really nice standing waves form that are 3-5 feet tall and offer enou speed for the Axioms to start planing a bit. Those are the most fun.
I would not recommend the 8.5 for anyone over 200lb though, even if they fit - the boat just rides too low and cannot offer some needed buoyancy to begin surfing or to do flat spins on slower waves for instance - it becomes too edgy. It would be good though for stern squirts on flat water and other tricks that require a smaller volume boat - the 9.0 I could not stern squirt for the life of me (too much volume) but I can the 8.5 and if I had another 20lb on me it would be even easier. So again, weight vs. volume for the intended use...
Finally, the 9.0 was well built and did not leak at all. The 8.5 with the same skirt leaks some through the cockpit, so their cockpits are not equally watertight and it is not just because the 9.0 rides higher and less water sloshes on top of it - even with rolling and surfing instill get less water in it than in the 8.5. So not sure what the issue is...
My knees love the high deck and the ample thigh braces and the ratcheting back band and seat make me feel well locked in. Surf around here has been mostly small, 1-3, but if it has a face, this boat has been able to get a ride.
Most of my surfing has been in sea kayaks, so this boat has been quite a change. The volume seems to keep it high up in the wave, but it's not always easy to break out of the white water. It has a flat planing hull convex channel transition to the sides that seems to allow for some carved turns. I've been in a few 4-5 foot waves without much shoulder and it handled those without burying the bow. I'm hoping to get it in some nicer sized waves with room to play to see what all it can do.
My big issue is it's a bear to roll, which I don't like in a surf boat. A bit of practice has me feeling better, but I wish I could fit in the 8.5 model. I'm over the listed weight limit for that boat, but I might take one out for a spin to see for myself.
I love the fit and quality of this boat and the more I surf it, the harder it'll be to give back, so I still don't know if it will have a permanent home in my garage.