Tried out seven kayaks in a demo today. Of those under $800, the Carolina was second on my list (to a Monterey), and a very good second.
Biggest surprise: This narrow kayak is very stable. Manufacturers and dimensions would suggest that a 22 (or 23) inch wide kayak would require you to do balance beam on one toe to keep it upright. Not this one--it felt more stable than some of the 27-29" beam kayaks I tried. Speed was probably the best of the lot, and the seat gave firm support when more effort was exerted. People like giving their dimensions here--at 5'8", 158, I've run track, wrestled, trout-fished canyons, done modest weight-lifting, and still consider myself a bit out of shape. What a good seat does is make you forget the seat is there. Carolina's was one of these.
I give this nice kayak a 9 because I think something better is possible. The Perception Monterey (13.5) seemed to be just as fast, tracked as well, and yet turned better. Turning the Carolina was actually difficult, leaning, full sweeps--I'm sure somebody out there as an instant fix for this (levitation, maybe?). Plus, the Montery offers a skeg instead of a rudder, which seems (big "seems," like "I really can't prove it") more durable and less likely to get knocked off by its clumsy owner--or a curious volunteer.
After trying it, I can see why so many shops carry them. Excellent stability for such a criminally narrow boat! Hope to try out some Old Town's this year or next year and try out that "awesome" heavy hull design.