I rented the Spitfire 9' this morning and my son who has significantly less time in a kayak paddled my Feel Free 9'8" Nomad. We were on a large lake in about 12 knots of wind and waves that started out less than a foot.
Right off the bat I noticed the Spitfire 9' did not like to track and I would need to use powerful sweeping strokes to get it back on course. When we got to a protected cove I had a chance to see how it would handle on completely flat water. The little bit of fish tail as you paddle was not an issue, but if you had been traveling straight at full cruising speed and then stopped paddling, in a matter of 5 seconds you would be a full 90 degrees off course as the back end would skid out...it seemed to want to go every direction but straight.
When we started back to the dock we had quartering seas to 2' from the back as well as significantly more wind. The lack of tracking turned in to spin outs as waves hit from the rear. It really became scary fighting so hard for control. My son struggled some in the Nomad which is also a small boat, but not nearly as much as I did in the Spitfire.
The interior seems pretty well laid out and I was comfortable and dry as the scuppers worked well. I am 5'9" and used the 2nd to last foot rest, so it will handle a fairly large person for such a small boat. It was light and I understand they are fairly inexpensive, which is good.
My bottom line is that the poor tracking was such a struggle it took all the fun out of paddling for a number of miles in lakes and flat water. I suspect that if you put a skeg or rudder on the boat it would make a huge improvement. I have no experience in white water, so I can't comment on its performance in that environment. If you just want a boat for the kids to play on at the beach, this might be the ticket...small, light, and cheap.
If you are looking for your first kayak, get one and you wont look back. It rides unlike any kayak ive ever owned. Boat is easily trimmed front or rear with whatever gear you bring. Boat is so nimble you can flick paddle once spin 180... Aren't kayaks supposed to be hyper manuverable?
She gets some terrible reviews, these folks may have the meaning of the word tracking completely mixed up. You put the boat in water and it floats, the water has a current and this boat will show you where it is.
This is a pretty nice kayak but for someone my size it is a challenge to row and steer. I wanted a kayak to help give me a work out and this one definitely does. It supports my weight well. The front noses into the water a little lower than the back. (because you sit so far forward) This thing will NOT go straight. My guess is, due to my size, it noses in and that effects it going straight. I picked this in part due to the 350 lb weight limit, but I don't recommend it if you are that big. I enjoy kayaking and this one worked well for the Summer, but I will be upgrading next year.
Not a bad kayak, I still enjoyed myself on it, but would not recommend for a big person.
The Spitfire 9 seems cheaply made. Not sure if it could take a hit from a rock very well. Sure it has cool compartments and just plain looks cool. It's awkward to carry with no side handles. I was so excited to drive 2 hours to the closest REI to pick these up but only used them 4 times before being too frustrated with the horrible tracking. I have read the Tarpon is the best sit on top for that price range.
It is economically priced but of good quality. I am 5'11" and weigh 200 pounds and find the kayak to be a good fit and very comfortable and stable. I use it mostly to paddle nearby lakes and for fishing.
Positives and negatives are about even. Easy to paddle. Tracks straight. Very stable even in rough water. Like I said earlier. Wife likes this one. Compared to the 8' the Spitfire 9 has an extra storage section at the front of the boat plus a waterproof storage in the floor.
That where the negatives start. The storage in the floor is good idea but not thought out completely. Hatch is only about six inches diameter. Not much you're going to get into a six inch hole. There isn't any bulkheads or anything in the space in the floor. If you place something down into the hole it doesn't take long for it to slide to the front or rear out of your reach. Only way to get it back out is beach the boat and start shaking it.
Advertised as having handholds molded into the sides. Yes there are two indentations but handholds... They're not. Maybe if you had two per side to where you could use two hands or a strap or bar you could actually grip.
The weight combined with no handholds it's pretty much a two man operation carrying it. If you're looking for something to carry off the porch and throw up on roof rack. This isn't the boat.
Great little boat for camp or farm on lake where you could leave it and not transport it for every float. Unless you have a friend the best way to transport is in a truck.