Child's First Kayak


Can you please recommend a child’s first kayak? My daughter, who is big for her age, has her 11th birthday coming up. She’s shown a lot of interest in my kayaking, and she’s an excellent swimmer. I’d like to get her a boat she can learn in…one that isn’t too difficult to paddle, but will enable her to do some lake and flat river trips without working too hard.



Child’s kayaks

– Last Updated: Mar-04-05 9:40 PM EST –
The Perception Carolina 12 seemsto be popular except for the seat -- several folks have reported replacing it with foam.

Don't worry if these look "too skinny" -- kids figure out the balance a lot faster than adults do. A wide stubby bathtub boat will be harder to paddle and will quickly get frustrating if she's trying to keep up with adults.

Most of the boats mentioned will need float bags to have adequate flotation for safety.

A paddle that fits is just as important as the boat.

If you like to build things, here are a couple of good choices:

Child’s First Kayak
The only kayak I have seen designed specifically for kids is Perception’s Carolina in the 12’ or 13.5’ version, but there may be others that I am unaware of - go here to check out some pricing -

Wilderness Systems Piccalo
It works great for our kids. It is also OK for an adult under 130 pounds. Unlike other small kayaks this one is scaled down in all deminsions. It paddles like a try sea kayak. Some of the others paddle like full size boats with the ends cut off. The biggest problem you will have with the Piccalo is trying to keep up with her. She will fly in it. Be patient and you will find one on ebay for around $400. You just can’t beat it.

ditto the Piccolo
Was my daughter’s first boat from about 10 to 13 when she got too leggy and outgrew the thing. Then moved into CD Squamish.

Prior comment about speed is true. She flew.

Seemingly narrow beam was no problem for agile and lower CG kids.

I sold ours for $400 easily as it was in good nick. Small price for all that fun and time together.

Old school whitewater boats
like the Dancer or Crossfire can be had cheaply. They can be found in the $100-200 range and sold for the same. They take a bit more to paddle straight, but are easy to learn bracing and rolling skills.

Agree completely on the balance part

– Last Updated: Mar-04-05 9:21 PM EST –

I built a < 15" wide, round bottom mini surfski for my 6 year old nephew last year and was amazed at the instinctive survival balance that was just THERE.... his super competitive sister (5 years old) did even better on it.

Keep the paddle small ( paddle itself and actual distance) and do not expect too much actual paddling focus right away.

Years ago, pre-teen paddling instuctor / teacher experience was to keep it interesting, goal oriented and let them ask all the questions with little 'coaching'

Hey Chuck any kids for you in the future???!!!

My 9 year old
daughter is also big for her age. We rented many some of the standard entry kayaks such as the Swifty but they were too wide and she also had trouble with tracking. We finally put her in a Necky Manitou and she loves it. It is perhaps a bit big for her right now, but she has no trouble handling it and has become good with tracking as well as edging. You can read my review of the Manitou:

I looked at the Carolina 12, but never tried it. I wanted a boat that an adult could paddle as well and I was nervous about her being in a boat that would require a sprayskirt for her first trips on the water. If you get it, let me know how it does. I have a 4 year old who will likely be in her own boat when she gets old enough.

My personality = effective birth control

– Last Updated: Mar-04-05 11:36 PM EST –

No more kids for me. I will be down in San Diego for my son's HS graduation in June. He used to paddle an Umiak, but out grew it after 2 or 3 years.

kids kayaks
Both our kids started with Picollos. My son, 9 years old loves his and balance and edging are not an issue. My 11 year old daughter is big for her age and actually enjoys paddling my Kajaksport Viking now. The Impex Mystic may be an option for larger kids. The WS Tchaika(Pic in composite) is another nice boat with true seakayak performance.

Try a …
Walden Vista. They are light {38lbs.} fast for their size,and I am 6’ 235lbs and I have one,so there’s room to grow. I sold my second Vista to a petite 13 year old ,and she handled it quite well the first time out,and had her father in a canoe struggling to keep up.You can pick up a Vista ,now for cheap,since Walden went out of business.Not much investment in case she doesn’t want to paddle,and you can use it too.

Happy Paddling billinpa

Another vote for…
the Perception Umiak (aka Carolina). My ten year old has been paddling one since she was eight. She too, is tall for her age, and it should accomodate her for a while. The seat and lack of a back band detracts from an otherwise very competent design. I padded the seat bottom, and drilled and added a back band from my Explorer-works pretty well. Also installed float bags, as she likes to practice wet exits, and in general, use the boat like a big watertoy. I’m surprised at how efficiently it moves through the water, to the point that my wife is grousing that she needs a faster boat than her own America rec kayak to keep up. It edges nicely and handles chop and wind waves well to boot. Check the used boat classifieds; they do pop up. When she outgrows it, you can move her into a full(er) sized boat (although those teenage years are rapidly approaching…)

Another thumbs up…
My sons (now 10 and 7) have been paddling a Perception Umiak/Carolina 12 for a couple of years. The oldest has raced in a couple of organized events, and he flys compared to the kids in the 28" wide rec boats. Although it is narrow, it is appropriate for a child. We have replaced the backband, and live with the seat as produced (don’t tell him it isn’t comfortable, he hasn’t complained yet).

Child Kayak
Last summer I bought my 9 year old son a Old Town Otter and he loves it. It hasn’t been used on any rivers yet (too rainy here in NE last summer/fall) but he easily keeps up with me and my wife in our kayaks. And, I’ve loaned it to friends (adults) and they’ve also used it fairly easily.

Ditto the ditto
Pick-o the Piccolo.

Add some flotation bags (no bulkheads) and give her a paddle that fits. The Piccolo’s 20.5" beam won’t feel like a bathtub, like so many short (rec) kayaks do.

I rented one (5’2" and 110 lbs) and found the Piccolo a great daytripper, too short for me to match the speed of my normal kayak, but lots of fun and VERY easy to accelerate.

Carolina 12
Bought this boat for my 5 yr old grandson. Added YakPads on the seat and extra floatation. My grandson can paddle it without much difficulty, and his cousins ages 11 and 13 paddle it without and difficulty. We have used it on a small lake with Kody. Our niece paddled it on a nearby creek and it handled beautifully.