I have owned a 2008 Kevlar GT for about a month now. I am a new kayaker and just moved up from my 12ft Old Town rec boat and wanted something I would never outgrow. I live in Southern California and have only ever kayaked on Open Ocean and in Los Angeles Harbor. I am 35 years old 6ft and 185 lbs.
I will write this for beginners since I am not advanced enough to be critical of small things in regard to handling. I will add that although I am new to kayaking I owned a sailboat for years and often sailed open ocean island trips and served several years in the military doing basic in-the-open-water operations, so I am a bit more comfortable on the boat in Open Ocean than some beginners may feel.
First off as most mentioned this baby is tuff to turn, which is no issue for long trips, but no quick turns here, it is not meant for that. I have been on the ocean with strong winds and it will tend to want to track broadside to the wind, which means upwind turns are almost impossible into heavy wind without rudder, but once you get it pointed upwind it is fine...
There is a lot of wind affect due to high freeboard of foredeck, but this same foredeck also keeps you very dry.
This boat is sleek, effortless, super stable and confidence inspiring for a beginner. Within hours of buying it I was 8 miles out on the open ocean just sitting back floating on 2-3 foot swells and no instability issues at all... I did a few more similar such trips in various conditions from fair to what might scare some rec boaters, but this boat handled anything that I could and no scary moments at all.
Within 2 days I had completed about 35 miles of Open Ocean/coastal paddling and decided to paddle the 44 mile round trip to Catalina Island to camp that weekend. It was pretty much effortless in this boat, caught 10-15 knot headwind about 8 miles from the island with 4-5 foot confused swell/wind swell mix with very light white caps and never any worries and almost no spray except on angled broaching wind caps that hit "just right" and only then it was minimal. Due to the wind the trip took over 8, but the trip back in tail wind and following seas only took a bit over 6 hours. The boat handled following seas pretty well and I could surf them pretty well (maybe my heavy surfing background helped me there)
Of course on my trip to the island I had the Murphyís law of owning an expensive new boat, all the beach landing on that trip were pebble/rocky. I heard much scrapping each landing, but later checks revealed almost NO damage (very small micro scratches only).
The high foredeck keep you dry and the storage hatches were bone dry & leaked NO water at all and the bow rides waves beautifully. On my trip I had about 20 Lbs of equipment stowed and it did seem to provide a more calm stable ride than when empty, which makes sense, the boat is designed for long tour cargo weights. I cannot roll, so I use wet exit reentry and this boat is great for that. In the conditions I go out in I can easily climb back onto the back deck and crawl back into the cockpit, just like a big paddleboard.
The fit and finish are superb in what I have viewed and seen. The foot pedal bolts are glassed in rather than the "thru hull" screws that some use and the gelcoat/ glass job is perfect and beautiful. The only issue I had with the finish is normal wear on the rear deck where I keep my spare paddle, it has some scuffing from my long trips and light scratches around the scuffs, but that is to be expected.
The cockpit interior glass is smooth in most any spot I could feel and see and all bolts are cut off at the nut so no protruding sharp screws. All deck lines are high quality and bungees are strong.
The bulk heads are glass and in far reaches of the inside storage areas I could see a bit of rough glass, but it is in deep corners and did not seem to snag my gear at all during loading/unloading . Like most good ocean boats the back bulkhead is behind the seat and I could easily bow lift the overturned boat and drain the full cockpit down to a few ounces. The front bulkhead is about 3-4 inches in front of the last section of the footpeg slide, so you get max front storage and less cockpit volume to have to drain out.
I found the seat comfortable, but that can be very objective so that is all I will add on that.
The foot pedals are the gas pedal style rather than the sliding type some kayaks have. That is nice because you always have a secure foot brace since you only use your toes to move the rudder, rather than sliding your feet.
The rudder is sturdy and simple to operate, though I did modify one thing. There is a retaining bungee that holds the rudder up for transport. This has a plastic hook that goes over the rudder. I often forgot to remove the restraining bungee before launching and once in a heavy wind situation I needed to deploy my still bungeed-up rudder. I could not reach it with my paddle and jerked on the deployment cord for several minutes before the plastic hook broke allowing the rudder to deploy. Not wanting a repeat of this I put a section of mid- gauge wire on the bungee and shaped it into a hook. The wire will hold the rudder for transport, yet with a jerk on the deployment cord it will bend out of the way allowing the rudder to deploy...
I found very slight flexing right below the H-Joint of deck and hull, but that is probably a low stress area anyway and you can see that has light glassing (to be expected on a ďlightĒ boat), but the hull itself is rock stiff, the deck has minimal flex and with a flashlight you can actually see where there are reinforcement patches on fore and aft sections. The area around the cockpit where you shoulder carry are also thickly glassed up.
I shoulder carry the boat and go out a lot since I live down the street from the ocean. I have noticed from all the shoulder transporting that I have caused some of the thigh stick-on cushion foam to come un-stuck, but I put a bit of adhesive on these areas and they are back to normal.
Overall I am very, very happy with my purchase and donít need or want (and canít afford) anything else. I do not regret my purchase at all and just enjoy the high quality build and finish and seeing the beauty of the boat each time I look at it. The stable, confidence inspiring, dry ride of the boat is a major benefit for beginners.