I am a rather big person and water does come in through the holes into the cockpit. It doesn't make for much problems in the summer when its warm, but in the fall it was kinda annoying. I purchased some scupper plugs to fill the holes over the winter, but have not had a chance to try them out. You don't really need to have the self bail if you are not in any surf, as the water buildup from fishing and paddling is minimal. I don't have much experience with a real skirted kayak. The main reason I bought this one was that it was a great combination between fishing, pleasure paddling, and surfing in it (which is a real blast;-)). It is also made out of rigid plastic that can be "welded" with a torch and plastic rods if the need arises. If you want to try it out sometime, let me know. I am going to start bringing whenever I fish, just in case!