Beginner Kayak for child

-- Last Updated: Mar-31-11 10:41 AM EST --

Good Day,

My daughter (8-yrs-old) was bitten by the paddling bug a year or two ago and has been paddling with me in a canoe. Last year, she took a keen interest in kayaks. Unfortunately, I know little about kayaks - I've been paddling canoes ever since I've been a kid (about 30 years). Rather than fight the kayak interest, I figure we can paddle "together" solo. Anyway, I need help/advice on the following:

- where to find good info on beginning kayaking.
- suggestions on good kayaks for kids (think user friendly) (cockpit style as opposed to sit-on-top)
- suggestions on good kayak gear for kids (paddle, skirt, etc.)
- paddling will be on smallish lakes and slow streams/rivers.
- how to transport along with a solo canoe (I currently use a Thule set-up)

I don't want to break the bank in the event the interest doesn't stick or she is ready to "trade up" in a year or two.

Any direction is appreciated.


Dick’s sporting goods

I’ve seen children having a blast with these and I think they are totally appropriate for the flatwater play and short paddles children that age find fun.

I’d go elsewhere to get you child outfitted with a comfortable life vest. Kids hate wearing them because there are so few comfortable designs available for children.

Acadia Scout
Take a look at the Perception Acadia Scout. We have a couple for our kids ages 11 and 8. The 11 year old loves his. It works nicely for flat water and can easily handle mild rivers. Our 8 year old hasn’t paddled hers yet more than just an initial try out at the local lake.

I got the skirt for it from NRS. Just one of their least expensive nylon skirts to help keep the splash out. If the kid flips the boat, the skirt will implode so they can easily swim out.

I also got their PFD’s from NRS. I think they’re the youth Vista models.

If you go the Acadia Scout route, you might want to make a couple minor modifications to the boat. The boat has foam pillars in front and back, but they may not stay in place when the boat is full of water. That happened to ours when I was having the kids practice swimming out.

I glued a couple small pieces of foam just to each side of the foam pillars to help keep them in place in case of swamping. Makes the boat much safer for any white water paddling.

are you handy?
If you’ve got basic shop skills and a few tools, you could make her one. Look at the neat dad-built boats on the Yostwerks site (under “galleries”). He has patterns and instructions for several kid-sized yaks that can be built very cheaply:

make one with the white ballistic nylon shell and she can decorate it herself with paint or markers.

Acadia Scout
I bought each of my kids a Perception Acadia Scout when I believe they were 6 and 8. We were very pleased. They are a great boat. 20 pounds each; light enough the kids can haul them around. The hull is great; a mini version of the larger model, meaning this is a “real” kayak and the kids will have no trouble keeping up with mom and dad. At 8 years old, assuming she is reasonable size, your daughter will get a few years out of it. Plenty of time, at a resonable price, to see if she will stick with it or not. Brand new this boat goes for about $400. I see my local dealer has a new old stock one for $350 and a “used” one for $250. Any “used” boat of this model is mostl likely nearly mint condition. A few years from now when your daughter has outgrown it you should easily be able to sell it for nearly what you paid.


P.S. $250 for a used one is a good deal, you won’t find one under $200, if you found one used at all. This dealer is in PA and might be worth looking into. Also, you are welcome to put her in one of mine when the weather warms up if you don’t mind a drive.

my top choice
Perception Umiak. A kid’s touring kayak. Tough to find - especially @ $300!

Check the classifieds within this site.



Respond to #70728 (SC) Perception Umiak youth kayak for sale. Asking $300. My son is looking to get a larger kayak as he has outgrown it. This kayak is 12 foot long and fast! – Submitted by: kayakincoachView Profile

If you don’t want to break the bank
your best bet is the big box stores, like Dicks

You can get a 9 foot new kayak complete with paddle and PFD for a price that will be as low as any place.

Many of us here started with them and our grandchildren picked right up in no time.

Just make sure the kayak has flotation in it.

You can always upgrade later

Jack L

good for floating, not for paddling.
You won’t find a boat that kids can paddle easily at a big box store. An 8 year-old needs a boat that isn’t 30" wide, and 12" deep if she stands any chance of keeping up with her dad.

It’s remarkable how quickly and effortlessly a kid that age can paddle IF they’re in a boat that fits them. But put them in a big rec boat tub, and they’ll just spin in circles.

sit on top
A sit on top is not a bad kayak either. It allows your kid to jump off, swim, etc… Anything that gets them out having fun is a good kayak.

btw. I think the Umiak has been renamed the Carolina 12?

Personally I’m planning on building my daughter a Sea Flea, but since she’s not even a year old I don’t have to start for a few years.

WT Tsunami 120SP

– Last Updated: Mar-31-11 7:45 PM EST –

A little more money than the others mentioned but this is a real sea kayak for small people (SP- get it?). This is a great boat. If you get really lucky you might find one used for around $450-500. I have been using one with my son since age 8. He is now 11 and about 100 lbs and we'll be looking for something a bit bigger soon. Whatever you do stay away from wide boats, short kids have a hard time getting the paddle in the water; in my experience kids hate them.
Also get yourself a tow belt and learn how to safely use it. The kids will never be able to (or want to) go as far as you do (again, in my experience). When they get tired just clip their boat for a while and give them a rest. Good luck.

Oh yeah, as with the Scout, if you buy a used 120SP you almost certainly will be able to sell it in a few years for about what you paid for it.

I second the recommendation for the
Tsunami SP…best boat I’ve seen for people under 120 lbs to start in.

You might want to consider the Wilderness System Piccolo, another kid/small person kayak. Check out this P-net ad…



(PA) Wilderness Systems Piccolo in great condition and ready for a new family. Two to choose from. Rigging, padded seat, foot braces, drain plug in great shape. E-mail for pix. $300 each – Submitted by: tvdantv

Jackson Mini Tripper
Jackson kayaks has the mini tripper.Looks like a baby pungo/pamlico.

Prijon Flipper
We’ve used these in our instructional fleet for quite some time. Much more the hull shape of an olderstyle river runner.

At 19lbs they can also portage their own boat.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

You might want to talk to my …
grandchildren !

They all started in them, and then move up

Jack L

Kid’s kayak
I agree with the posters that say Umiak, Carolina 12XS and Acadia Scout. The Scout is a bit smaller though, and may not last her as long. Look around $300, I’ve bought 6 of them and supplied my kids and some friends too. No complaints yet. I’ve also gone the big box route, thinking short and wider would be safer and better, but learned my lesson. Save yourself the hassle and watch how well she does in a more efficient boat.

Paddle & Transport
Many good suggestions on boats. You also asked about paddle and transport. A cheap paddle might work OK, but they tend to be heavy – especially for a young child. Consider a Werner Sprite, about $90 new. My friend (canoe paddler with kids who kayak) has one for her kids and it works well for them. She has Yakima crossbars on her car. They are wide enough to strap on both her canoe and the kids’ kayak (hull side up). You could also add a stacker to your crossbars and transport the kayak on its side, which takes up less room.

Most smaller boats are way too wide and deep. If she’s enthused about paddling, please don’t kill her excitement by putting her in a bathtub/barge. The Piccolo is only about 20.5" wide, which sounds narrow to adults but will have plenty of room for a kid. I am just under 5’3", 105 lbs, and I still had some wiggle room when I rented a Piccolo. It was a lot of fun to paddle. Just add some float bags because it does not have sealed bulkheads. It’s also light.

Thanks all
Thank you for all of the suggestions and comments both here and via email. I’ve made a list of kayaks to check out (or keep my eye out for used). I appreciate all of the input.

Thanks again.


Onno paddle
I’m having Patrick at Onno Paddles make me a kid’s paddle.

His kid paddles weigh a pound, and cost nearly the same as the Werner Sprite. The Sprite strikes me as kinda heavy for a 50-60 pound kid, at 30 ounces!