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Tried a friend's brand new one. Second plastic boat for him (first was a Perception Carolina). He is pretty much a newbie w. very basic skills. Fit him well stocky but not tall guy - say 5'8" and ~220.
I tried it last month on a chain of small local lakes. Flatwater day, no wind.
Overall built decently, but at 25" beam slow,not very responsive and bargelike. Too much like the rec boats you want to upgrade from. The seat back is too high for rescues or good torso rotation (but it could be replaced w. a backband).
Beamy boats like this don't do as well in open water & waves. You mentioned ocean. The Elie presents a lot of hull to the water making it more apt to capsize in conditions. I can think of a few more 14 footers I'd be much more likely to take out on the ocean. Dagger Alchemy is probably the one found most easily, used, at good prices. They offer and L and an S size.
Hatch cross locks, you either like them or not.
Would have liked to see the stern toggle all the way to the stern of the boat where it's easier to grab when you're in the water.
It does track straight (an oft requested trait of a beginner boat). He has a rudder on his, why I don't get as it's already so tracky.
With its deck height, ample freeboard and that 25" beam it doesn't take to edging or turning very well.
I have my preferences like anyone else. I like a quick, graceful, responsive boat that I can edge and turn in a flash.
I find the Elie suited for flat protected water and slow rivers. Competent but clunky. Nothing that would excite me enough to buy one.
You should sit in one & paddle it though, as you are not me.
can get a used Alchemy L for that or less... better all around boat for what you want to do now and later.. it's also 14 feet btw.
Better outfitting, more responsive, not the fastest but still will outrun the Elie... has the comfort-driven Zone seat too.
Jackson Journey would also fit your bill. Finding one used is harder but you might score a demo.
Two other kayaks in the 15-16 foot range made by Wilderness Systems: Zephyr (comes in two sizes, you go w. the larger, the 160) and its older cousin, the Cape Horn (also comes in two sizes). Should be able to find a CH for well under $900 and a Zephyr for around that.
Keep fishin' Good luck!