This kayak was perfect for it's purpose - getting me introduced to kayaking. had never kayaked before, and was sure I would like the sport, but didn't really know what aspect of it I would enjoy the most. Consequently I got a Pungo 120 ultralite - wide and stable with a huge 50" cockpit (I have back/mobility problems and am 6'3" with 36" inseam). The Pungo had to be return as it had a design flaw causing cracks to develop in the ultra thin ultralite plastic where the handles attached.
So I looked for an alternative. It had to be reasonably light. I am 63 and cannot imagine I will be able to lift much more than 40lbs on to the roofrack when I get into my 70's. I wanted something recreational and stable with decent mobility. The 43" cockpit is long enough for me to get my legs into easily and the 28" width gives it super secondary stability. I feel really comfortable when the lake starts getting rough and the 40 lb boat is relatively easily to hoist on my shoulder.
Paddling wise it is an extremely agile kayak. The plastic is not as tough as one of those tough plastic or fibreglass sea kayaks, but it can take the odd scrape here and there. It can feel tippy at first, but the secondary stability is unbelievably good. I have been in some bad wakes in rough weather and the boat never comes close to tipping. The boat obviously weathercocks slightly in wind, but tracking is better than I expected for a 12' 6" boat intended for recreation.
Its only drawback is speed. As it turns out, I have discovered what turns me on the most about the sport: speed! I love to go down the river and into the lake and go as far as I can for 2-3 hours. I just like the feeling of being in my own head for 3 hours, concentrating on the paddling and the calmness on the water. I tend to average 6km/hour (3.7mph) if I go out for 3 hours. So far I have about 40 hours paddling this boat and, but for the lack of speed, I love it.
I would like to do a bit of expedition paddling. The Santee has two bulkheads, but the front bulkhead is not accessible for storage. The rear hatch takes quite a bit, and there is some rudimentary elastic rigging in front of the cockpit. The seat is very comfortable - it's an airestream seat that is quite adjustable and has adjustable back and thigh support. Unfortunately the seat attachment bracket attached to one side of the boat snapped, but customer service quickly sent me TWO new sets of replacement brackets and hardware (hopefully I won't need the spare set). It was easy to install. They also sent two sets of 4 pads. Two get stuck on the base of the hull under the seat and two get stuck on the underside of the seat. (So I still have a spare set of 4) They line up so when a big guy like me throws his bum on the seat, there are two sets of two pads to slow the sudden downward movement of the seat and reduce the stress on the side brackets. I haven't had a problem since installing the "upgrade". I don't know if they will now come standard on new kayaks, but they should. If anyone is over 200lbs and thinking about buying this kayak, they should ask about the pads, otherwise the stress might be too much for the side brackets.
In conclusion - this is the perfect lightweight recreational kayak. It will not break any speed records, but it seems relatively quick for its length and breadth and it handles the waves ok. I am now looking to upgrade to an intermediate/entry level surfski that will go a lot faster, but that's a story for another day. I heartily recommend this kayak for anyone that likes touring and exploring at a relaxed pace, rather than fitness or racing.