Originally I bought this for dual uses: recreational paddling with wife/ solo fishing. My wife and I used it together probably 4 times in 5 years; But I have used it by myself as a fishing boat way more-probably 100 times in 5 years.
This kayak fits almost perfectly all my requirements: relatively light weight 68lbs , short at 11.5 ft, which makes it easy to car top or suv top.
It is extremely stable- I mean extremely. At 34 inch wide and with a flat bottom hull, it's almost impossible to flip in most situations. I have flipped it once in 5 foot surf zone when I was relatively inexperienced paddling in surf and I got caught by a quick side wave. Mind you, because of the same reasons, once it's flipped, it's hard to right it in water. So training is needed.
It tracks well. I do not use rudders. And it's been no problem for me. Granted, there is a bit left-right swaying during paddling but it's minimum.
It is fast- I've been clocking average speed of 3.3mph in calm conditions. The top speed can reach 4.5mph but it's hard to maintain. Note that for the 3.3mph, the boat was fully rigged for fishing and fully loaded with coolers, ice, fish, tackle etc.
It maneuvers extremely well. I didn't realize this until I paddled many other boats. This boat can turn on a dime.
To rig this boat for fishing, it's a bit more difficult because it doesn't have a flat tank well to put a crate in. But it's not difficult to solve either. Rod holder wise, I installed gear tracks for trolling and it worked really well.
All in all, very satisfied.
The kayak is designed for two of course and it's just a dream on the water -- I would much rather paddle this boat tandem than our Maui's and our cousin's Odyssey. It's fast and stable and accelerates from rest to cruise really quickly. It's got lots of room and makes for a wonderful boat to spend the day on the water. Highly recommend it!
I really like the clips for the paddles and inclusion of drink bottles. The rubber lines on the stern for stowing the wheels whilst paddling and the 2 hatches for keeping important things dry are great features. I appreciate the fact that it came inclusive with paddles which are weel crafted and very light.
Another major plus is the seats. They provide wonderful support for the back and I am able to maintain a comfortable posture and adjust the seats for any friends whom may come for a paddle with me. Its stability makes it easy for me as a newbie and I can't wait to use it barramundi fishing in season. It's easy to see why Hobie is a world leader in catamarans as the attention to intelligent design and craftsmanship is outstanding.
It's only real downfall for me is the cost in Australian dollars.
We regularly load the Kona with two adults and a small child, and the kayak remains stable and dry. The extra weight does affect speed due to the angle of the bow in the water.
I have found a little trouble tracking straight in windy conditios with strong currents, in most instances this is not an issue.
In conclusion, this is a very good all purpose kayak, and I would not trade the stability and compact size for the speed of a longer kayak.
On another April day we ventured farther down stream through Snowden. The river is not as mellow through this section. I had no problems. My wife on the other hand flipped upside down, nearly loosing all gear. I don't know if it was the yak or her inabilities. Curious to see how it'll handle the river...or how the river will handle it. Thus far I’ve liked everything about the Kona. I rate it a 10 as long as it continues to hold up on the James River.
Works great in surf or choppy water, our first day out was in 2-3' wind chop/waves (whatever you want to call it in south florida) right off the beach. Tracks nicely and paddles easily without too much drag as in some sit on top kayaks, but maintains great stability--I performed the stand up and walk around test. It's short enough that it still maintains maneuverability. Also works very well as a solo 'yak, just move one of the included seats to the center and strap in, just took it through some mangroves today solo, pretty speedy with one person so it takes advantage of the rocker, and the forward hull design "slices" water rather than "plow" (makes a cool sound too).
Transports easily, slapped on a thule roof rack on my bmw e30, and even for a small car, the kona does not protrude from the rear at all, nice and compact. One flaw though is the molded in "handles" for carrying solo. Unlike ocean kayak brand's handles, you cannot wrap your hand around the handle because it's not molded all the way through the hull, just part way. This makes carrying solo kind of awkward.
All in all however, a great kayak for days at the beach, lake or bay. Would not recommend for camping/long touring excursions due to lack of storage area. There is enough storage though to place maybe a cooler on the rear deck, something small on the bow, and whatever you can fit in a 8" hatch. We load it with snorkel gear perfectly fine. (If used solo though, there is immensely more area for on-deck storage). Paid $950 for the deluxe with everything, and was worth every penny. Can't go wrong with the kona.
The storage, tie downs and other features seem very well engineered. You do get wet in the bay and you can paddle in less that a foot of water even with two people in the kayak.
The Kona Deluxe comes with seats, paddles and water bottles. I'm sure there are better kayaks for other purposes, but the Hobie Kona is just about the perfect recreational kayak.