I've been paddling an 8.5 for years and love the boat. However I weigh about 160. I did get a new large Nomad, I think it's like a 9.0. Anyway, I got it for self-support trips and without the extra weight, I'm a good ten pounds under recommended weight. Without the extra weight from gear, I have a much harder time punching holes in the big boat. It wants to side surf instead of punch through. The big boat also has a tendency to be affected more by the different currents and gets sucked back into holes easier. Basically, I have to work more in the large Nomad to maintain my line. I would imagine it would be similar to you if you were to paddle the 8.5. Best thing to do would be to try it out. See how it feels for you.
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