if money's the limiting factor, definitely buy a tomcat.
i've had one for a few years, and i truly do love it. in both big and little water, it's an awesome boat. especially for the price.
if you have the money, get a hyside paddilac.
it'll handle bigger water better, especially with any amount of gear strapped to it...
pricey, but worth every penny
All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine. - Spicoli