Help with some entry level questions

First of all thank-you in advance for your input. I have what I would call intermediate touring skills, have been away from the sport for approx. 10 years. Those ten years have produced a five year old, nine year old, and a wife who is terrified of getting her head under water. I want to introduce them to flat water kayaking. Question: Are there any kayaks out there that have outriggers on them? Do any of you have any other ideas for introducing my family to the sport. Thnks again.

There are a few companies
that make outriggers but you will find they are rather costly. Most sit on tops are really stable. Inflatables or folding kayaks can be really stable too.

Re your wife

– Last Updated: Feb-18-07 12:39 PM EST –

Is she terrified of getting her head under water in any situation, as in she is a poor swimmer, or is it just within the idea of a boat tipping over? If it is the latter, a SOT is likely the best idea because it'll feel like she can just swim away regardless. If it's because she's a poor/unconfident swimmer, outriggers or sponsons on a sit inside may be best if you can't get her to do the above (very good) acclimitization work. A SOT could leave her feeling vulnerable because there is nothing apparent that is holding her securely in the boat.

They are around - I saw a photo of some for sale on the web knocking around this morning but I forget where.

The other question is the kids - since you are the only able paddler bunch you may have to think about a tandem to take the youngest with you and get the older child paddling on her own. Are you thinking of trying to get boats so that all four of you could get out on a quiet pond at the same time?

Annnd - you may want to take the kids and your wife out separately at first, lest she transmit her own fears to them.

re: the wife problem …
I, too, had a similar wife problem and I discovered there is a really simple solution.

It’s an older type of paddling craft that is called a canoe.

sit-on-tops, etc.

– Last Updated: Feb-18-07 1:30 PM EST –

Kids of the appropriate age will treat something like the Kea as a big pool toy, which is fine. There's nothing to dump out when it flips, and no fear of entrapment. It's good for them to think that capsizing is normal -- and even fun -- instead of something to be feared.

If you want a sit-inside for the kids, the Perception Acadia Scout is a kid-sized rec boat.
If your older child starts wanting to cover some distance, the Perception Carolina 12 or EPI Episea might be good. All should have float bags added.

If your wife is afraid of the water, I'd work on basic swimming skills before you try paddling. If somone's afraid to put their head in the water, it can help to give them a good reason to. Snorkling in an area with interesting things to see helped a friend of mine get over her fear of having her head underwater.

If it's fear of entrapment, a sit-on-top or large-cockpit boat might help.

Tandems tend to be very stable, and can be a good way to introduce new folks. The downside is that thye're heavy and hard to handle on land.

More Info
My wife is not a great swimmer, but I think her real fear is being trapped under the boat. My idea was two tandems for 1 day or 2 day excursions, I would take the younger child, my wife would take our oldest. I am getting warmer to the idea of an open cockpit, I think my wife would accept that. One company I was looking at was Sea Eagle, they seem to offer a couple of different options, does anyone have experiences with these kayaks?

That is a great idea, just need the oppurtunity.

The real answer: Sea Wing Sponsons
I even have a set. I took 'em in a trade for an old table saw several years ago. Took me awhile to find 'em but they were in the gear locker - w-a-y IN!

They are buckled to the sides of the kayak and it’s virtually impossible to tip over while still being able to paddle with comfort and ease. I know 'cause I tested them once before I let my son (a non-swimmer/non-paddler) use my rec kayak several years ago. (Think that’s the last time they were used judging by the mildew on the instructions.)

Being curious, I did a COPERNIC-search and found one URL that advertised them:

Any day on the water is a great day,


Sit On Tops
You want a sit on top that you can use on bays and protected spots in Norcal. Good tandem sit on tops to look at are the Ocean Kayak Malibu II, the Cobra Tandem and Hobie Oddysey. These boats are great with kids.

Go to It’s the best place to get accurate and informed information on sit on tops.

My husband has the same issue–he’s a great swimmer, but he’s claustrophobic and hates the idea of being inside a spray skirt. So he goes out in a canoe, or else we borrow a friend’s tempest 165 and he doesn’t bother with the spray skirt. Obviously this means he doesn’t go out in rough water. A sit on top would work, except we’re on Lake Superior. Huck Finn’s raft would be exactly right for my husband’s claustrophobia.

Do not know where in NorCal
you are but you and the family are welcome to try out my Klepper on Tahoe once the water warms up.

taking a step back…

May I say politely, with no sort of flame intended, that from the extreme youth of your children (who may or may not be swimmers, but juveniles either way) plus a wife “terrified” to have her head underwater and not being “a great swimmer” (no doubt, if she is terrified to put her head underwater)how are you prepared to act as the sole rescuer if no one else is around to help?

Have you imagined the scenario of a capsize involving one or more of the family’s boats? I know you intend flatwater, but capsizes happen anywhere and sometimes for the most mundane reasons such as turning around, powerboat wakes, avoiding an insect, coughing, or just fooling around.

What you would do, as you would be the only one with the experience to be able to effect a quick and useful rescue attempt? And you have said you’ve been ten years out of the sport, how are your own self rescue skills?

Please consider, before you start discussing makes of kayaks, sponsons or not, SOTs, canoes, etc swimming lessons for the young ones (if they are not already enrolled).

And as for your wife, just my opinion, but if I had a friend or family member who was that terrified of being under a boat or under the water, I would not bring them on the water, not in a canoe, kayak, or any variation of small craft which is close to the water.

I would offer to work with him or her in shallow water if they wanted to get more comfortable in the water, but if they did not, ashore they would stay.

I hope everything others have discussed is helpful for you and you find a safe way to have family fun on the water.


– Last Updated: Feb-18-07 5:40 PM EST –

Are basic, beginning kayak lessons available in your area? A friend and I were lucky to have classes taught by women and for women at a "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" weekend, several years ago, when we first tried kayaking. These were very patient, very "warm and fuzzy", very competent women instructors. If you could find such a class, send your wife with a friend to take the class.

One of the things taught in another class we took was a basic wet exit without a spray skirt. Really got rid of that fear of being entrapped, esp. with a certified instructor right at hand.

Have patience, build on skills and successes, look into getting some stable rec boats...I wish you luck. Just don't make your wife do anything she really doesn't want to.

Another suggestion
If you can get hold of a “wide” rec kayak and can rent a local pool for an hour or two, this could be an idea. You could bring your family to practice in it for the first few times in a pool. The controlled safe feeling of a pool may be a way to see if she is willing to accompany you in future. If they all wear their life jackets for security, not to mention safety, it may just help introduce them to the sport in a more secure environment and no fear of whats underneath!

My husband, teen children and I will be renting our high school pool as soon as my wrist and arm problems resolve. We are doing this so we can practice wet exits and they want to try rolling.

Good luck,

cant help with the wife thing ,mine doesn’t have much interest ,shes been out a hand full of times and on one 3 day canoe trip but she would rather ride around on a party barge ,just her preference. My three kid on the other hand love canoeing and kayaking they took to it right away .I don’t think stability is a big issue for kids ,they have a low center of gravity ,my son who was 6 last summer can easily stand on the seat of a touring kayak that I have a hard time keeping upright when sitting on the back deck .last summer my oldest daughter who is 11 , learned to brace decently ,wet exit ,paddle float rescue and this summer we will continue to work on rolling .my middle kid(8) takes the least interest but still likes to go paddling on a nice sunny day .for my kids the biggest challenges are distance and wind .to us 3 miles doesn’t seem like a lot but it is for a 5 or 6 year old to paddle ,if they are in their own boat expect to take lots of breaks and bring a tow rope .wind also poses problems for kids they have a lot of boat exposed to the air and not so much in the water ,and not enough strength to make corrections constantly. with that said all three would rather have there own boat than ride in the canoe with dad .if you have aspirations of taking them on long trips then by all means get the tandem(s)or a canoe .

Hope this helps,


re: the wife problem
I, too, had a similar wife problem and I discovered there is a really simple solution.

Just get her life insurance increased and take her out for some fun…hehhe…just kiddin. Dont let her issue affect you that much. Like some of the previous posters mentioned just get her out in the shallows. My wifes first and only boat (hurricane tampico) is not as wide as a std rec boat, its just a matter of them getting used too. She knows the rescue techniques, she’s just never put them to the test. As a matter of fact she’s dumped twice in rivers and has come out of it bruised, but otherwise, unscathed. As for the kids, thats another issue.

hang in there, you will make boaters of them all in time.

Thank You
Thanx to all of you who have taken the time to respond to me today. Alot of great ideas, comments, and wisdom. I will work on a “plan”, before purchasing the equipment. Thanks again.