Choosing a kayak for a child

Hi, I’m thinking about getting my 10 yr. old son his own kayak to paddle. What are the general guidelines for figuring out what to get? He’s 10, 4’6 and 65 lbs. Thanks for your help. (I’m not opposed to getting SOT or sit in, either)


– Last Updated: Feb-04-13 4:46 PM EST –

What sort of kayak do YOU paddle (tour sit inside, SOT, etc.)? Does your son want to "get into" kayaking meaning is he excited, willing to get wet and have fun learning or just go out now and then?

A SOT is definitely easier if he just gets out now and then but there are some nicely scaled down models (not just shorter) that give kids a "real" kayak experience.

I've heard folks speak well of the Wilderness Systems Piccolo which seems to be no longer made but may be found used. Currently they offer the Tsunami SP which may be a good fit.

I think ideally for any boat you want to avoid one that is too wide making it hard for short arms to reach far enough for good strokes. 22" or narrower isn't a bad choice for a kid -- would be like 26" or more for adult. Narrow also makes it easier for them to play around with edging.


– Last Updated: Feb-04-13 4:09 PM EST –

The most common problem I see is kids in kayaks that are much too big for them.

Most kids are quick learners, have good reflexes and balance, and are not afraid of getting wet. They want to go fast. Parents are often far more worried about stability than the kids are. A boat that's too wide and/or too deep for a small paddler will be uncomfortable and slow.

SOTs have the advantage of not having to be emptied, but they're usually slower than sit-insides. if you want to paddle with your child that may be a consideration.

Possibilities might include:
WS Tsunami SP
EPI Episea
Perception Prodigy XS
Perception Carolina 12 XS/Umiak (discontinued)
Perception Acadia Scout(discontinued)
WS Piccolo (discontinued)
Jackson Mini Tripper

There are also build-your-own options, such as...
A skin-on-frame:
Stitch & glue:

I’m an open boater,
but my main mostest floating buddy’s son is ten and paddles a Dagger Zydeco. He does great in it. He even joined his dad and me on a three day float trip last month.

Sea kayak?
What do you want to do with the boat?

If touring, then the best I’ve found is the CD Raven. My 9 year-old just got one, and I’m very pleased with it. It’s the best fit I’ve found so far in a production boat, and she’s working on rolling now. High quality, very light weight, two watertight hatches, deck rigging, etc.

It’s about $1100. (I found one on clearance for $850).

Kids Boats
I have my granddaughter paddling an Arcadia Scout (10’)by Perception and it seems to work real well for her. She is 11yr old & weighs 70lbs. Seems to have a good mix of tracking & manuverability. She also paddles a Prijon Flipper (10’) but has a much harder time going straight (turns real well though!)Both of these boats are made for kids.

If it was me , I would get him…
a nine foot long el cheapo recreation kayak.

See how he does in it and then if he gets hooked, let him upgrade.

Our grandchildren started in them, and it was amazing to watch them progress. Some of them moved up to better boats, and others lost interest.

Jack L

Depends on the kid.
My daughter loved coming on canoe trips with me from an early age. We built an Ospery 13" when she was 8 & it got good use until she grew out of it. (It is looking for a good home). But … I know that I am lucky. There is some point to what JackL says if your son is just getting started. On the other hand if he has experience and enjoys getting out on the water then it would be worth looking for something that is a better fit and faster.

if cheapo rec then rent or used
Then you lose nothing if you decide to go for a nice boat as used boats can often be sold at same price you bought it.

I have two Tsunami SP’s. I have had quite a few paddlers from 50lbs (my son) up to 130lbs (my nephew). They are great little boats and we are very happy with them. I considered a Raven but watching the kids play bumper boats and run them up on shore I’m glad I didn’t. The cons, the thigh braces don’t fit anyone from all the sizes I’ve had in these boats. The cockpits are way too big, I assume to keep lawyers happy since they are kids boats. The final verdict is from the kids though, they absolutely love their boats.

We also have two small (6 foot) SOT’s. They are great for playing around the beach but are just about useless to take on an actual paddle (with tow line). For getting kids interested and having fun at the beach they are a home run at $99. Larger ones would obviously be a different story.

For paddles, we have a couple of the Canon Cascade Youth paddles. They were $50 each, 2 piece aluminum shafts and a good size. Since they are tough I don’t care if they are digging sand with them.

We just paddle flat water with the kids so far. We’re obviously not racing but my 10 year old daughter has no issue keeping pace with me in my full size sea kayak.

Angstrom had a good list up there, that Episea Greenland style one really catches my eye. If I ever see one in Canada I’ll grab it for my wife to play with.

Another note
I find there is a big hole in the plastic boat market when it comes to teenagers (and petite women). It would sure be nice if WS would bring out a Tempest 150 or 155. No more than 20 inches wide… 19.5 would be even better for all the 5 foot sub 115lb’ers out there hint hint please. The idea of buying matching Pilgrims for my wife and daughter has my wallet shaking. I guess the market wouldn’t support it but a guy can dream.

Sorry for the thread highjack. If you PM me I can send you pics of the kids in the SP’s at your sons weight.

Olympic K1 & Surfski
Are what I got my 10 year old daughter and a small Onno wing paddle. Today, at 15 years old, her boats are longer, sleeker, and tippier. However, the paddle remains the same, for she just completed a 10 mile open ocean race in her 21 ft. long surfski, last Saturday, using the same Onno small wing paddle that Patrick made her 5 years ago. Paddling is no different than other sports, so like other sports, get them the best equipment that will keep them motivated and on the water.

tsunami sp
My 13 year old son has been using a Wilderness Systems Tsunami SP for the last 3 to 4 years. Bulkheads and decklines give it the same safety feaures as an adult boat. Tracks straight , edges with confidence.

Only downside is the factory kneebraces. They sit so low on the coaming that he could never get his knees under them. I heavily modified them to sit higher on the upper cockpit rim, and now he can engage his knees properly. His bracing and rolling really took off after that.

Overall, highly recommended.

Kids kayak
Rented a CD Raven, for my 10 year old son, on a week long kayak trip. He was about the same size, and love’d the boat, it fit him well. Wish I had bought that boat from the dealer, only been in his rental fleet for half a season, and he offered it to me for half off his cost. Dealer sold it 3 weeks later, while I thought about it. Tkamd

Someone mentioned the EpiSea. I have one, and I’m not impressed with it. The design is odd. The rear deck is quite high. The front deck is monstrously high. My 9 year-old can’t paddle it without banging her knuckles, and outfitting the cavernous cockpit sufficiently to try rolling would be a big job. There’s no front bulkhead, and a small screw-on hatch in the back.

If you simply want a boat for a kid to mess around in, this would be a fine boat. But if your kid wants to learn genuine sea kayak skills, skip the Episea.

That’s my opinion anyway. I know a good sea kayaker in this area who liked the Episea for his daughter, so you may be perfectly happy with it.

That said, mine’s for sale. $250, in nearly-new condition. How’s that for a sales pitch? :slight_smile:

Thank you
For all the helpful advice and tips. Mostly, we’d be at the lake and occasional lazy Delaware trips…but not for the first year.

How is your Epi Sea outfitted?

I picked one up for short money but it needs foot pegs, back band (or foam) etc…

Having said that I figure its something my daughter will mess around with for a while until I find a deal on a Raven in a several years… yes I’ll drive to Maine for one :wink:

She has a little brother.
Hey Michael,

Our Episea has no backband, but a fairly deep seat. Also footpegs and an airbag up front. I haven’t outfitted it further with any foam or anything because as soon as I saw my 9 year-old in it last summer, I knew it wasn’t the boat we were looking for.

A couple weeks ago, my wife 5’2, 130 (am I allowed to put that on the internet?), my wife took the Raven out for a morning paddle, and she absolutely loved it. So even after Lilja outgrows this boat, and her little brother Winslow passes through it, I think their mom will want to keep this one around. She’s always wanted a boat she could carry down to the water for a quick outing, and this thing only weighs 26 pounds!

Too wide not good
I teach paddling camps for kids in the summer. The problem with the wide recreational kayaks that the park provides me is that they are just too wide for children. Overprotective parents like to put their kids in wide boats, this killing a lot of the fun of paddling. A lot of the narrower boats are no longer available (market catering to overprotective parents). You really want a scaled down kayak - shorter and narrower, not just a shorter boat that is the same width as the adult version. In the camp I put a square flotation device under shorter children so they don’t have to put their arms high in the air to clear the kayak.

Maybe this will help

If you come up with more good options, please put a comment on the blog.