I consider myself to be in the advanced-beginner portion of my paddling career. I have paddled only sit-on-top kayaks and love the freedom and ease of use. I am a big guy at 6'3" and anywhere from 260-290 (depending on season). My first kayak was a beginner Ascend from Bass Pro, it has exceptional stability and handles quite well, especially for a cheap beginner kayak. I purchased a used Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro TW since I was expecting to get a faster and more maneuverable kayak. I was wrong! Even though it was rated at 300 lbs., it is more like 250. All the scuppers were FILLED and I sat in 2 inches of water for the entire ride! It also filled the tank well area and rode nose-high! While it may have handled better with the optional rudder, turning it was a borderline nightmare.
I just received my RTM Midway from Masthead in South Florida (one of the few RTM importers in the U.S.). I settled on this design after a lot of research and eventually decided its speed and advertised weight capacity of 355 would fit me quite nicely. While, the previous reviewer gave it low marks due to water in the scupper holes and marginal turning capability, as well as, poor stability, I would say it is the fastest sit-on-top you can buy for the money! While, I will have to lose weight in order to take full advantage of its speed, and I believe the weight capacity to be GROSSLY overstated, it is FAST! I use a 240cm Aqua-Bound Manta Ray carbon fiber paddle with a high angle stroke. Due to the narrow beam of this kayak, I will be getting a shorter paddle.
I am amazed at the quality of this roto-molded kayak and all the thought that went into its design. It's initial stability takes a little getting used to, but I believe this to be a product of the market--most SOT kayaks have become lumbering barges, while this one is a sleek narrow--did I mention FAST?--design. You can find the edge of its secondary stability, but I have not fully tested it to capsize.
I have the optional thigh brace, which most reviewers dislike. I LOVE IT! It adds a nice touch of stability and control when properly adjusted and is easier for entry/exit from the kayak (especially in the event of a capsize--compared to leg straps). Its stainless steel hardware, multiple tiedown points, spare paddle carrier, paddle carrier on each side, recess for diving pole and many other features make this an EXCELLENT intermediate kayak. I believe I'd have to move to a less useful wave ski to get anything faster, and for under $900, I would consider it a best-buy.
Once I lose the 30 lbs, it could easily be a 9.5 on the 10 point scale. I currently take 3 full points due to a GROSSLY inaccurate advertised weight capacity.