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I have subjected this boat to a range of conditions (open water, choppy larger northern Ontario lakes, creeks, milder whitewater rivers) and have no complaints, other than that on it's first, relatively 'gentle' trip the Trylon material under the seat developed non-leaking radial cracks in the hull. This doesn't seem to be a problem (yet) and doesn't affect performance, but it is something that I will have to watch over time to see how 'durable' the Trylon really is, and how much I can expect of it (Note: a friend bought a Santee XL at the same time as me, and she has had no problem with this). Performance on all conditions was excellent - in spite of the 'recreational' tag, tracking is great, handling in current and smaller rapids fine, a joy to paddle.
The Santee rates a 10/10 for paddling performance and style, but it is the Hurricane company that brings down the rating (under a separate rating system for companies, they would get a failing grade!!!) All questions regarding the hull cracks (is this a concern over time or not, whether or not to treat them, limit of Trylon for various whitewater/rocky conditions etc) as well as attempts to replace a hatch cover that blow off and was lost, have been IGNORED...have been paddling canoes and kayaks for many years and have never run into such poor, poor service. Luckily, Swift has been a bit more helpful, although they seem to have an absence of product information from the Hurricane people, as well.
However, as for the Santee itself - I TOTALLY recommend this boat. Even my kids, who were never canoe fans, have taken to this kayak and are finally enjoying paddling - would love to get another as a second boat.
This boat does really well on all sorts of flat water. Rivers with a strong current are ok, but because the boat is slow, don't expect to cover many miles in an hour against the current.
I recently had the opportunity to take it for a spin on the open ocean. I went with a bunch of 16 - 20 ft. kayaks and several very experienced paddlers. This boat kept up, but I was doing 3-4 strokes for every 1 of theirs, just to keep up. However... coastal exploration is where this boat really shines. I was able to land on barnacle and seaweed covered rocks, no problem. The swells were 1-2 feet, and breaking. This boat could handle slightly larger swells, but it is not recommended. However, stick close to shore and you will have an awesome time exploring the nooks and crevices if you can find them. You may even get this kayak to surf the breakwater a little.
I actually padded the cockpit to fit much better, because it is a large cockpit.
So far I have been very impressed with this little boat. I definitely recommend it as a first boat. I plan on keeping mine for flatwater and rock play, but maybe getting a 16' for open water kayaking.
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