Kayak for children

My kids are 8 and 6. This Summer I had them in some wide rec boats. Paddling was difficult because of their shorter arms. Thoughts? Boat recommendations?

Rec boats
are the norm,but you could also try a sit on top because there are no sides to deal with (a little heaver though)


(then Leisure)


The Vaya is a sit-on-top kayak for young kids, aged between 5 and 10. Vaya means “go” in Zulu, a native African language, and resembles Fluid’s intention to give kiddies the opportunity to go have fun like their parents do.

The Vaya is based on the Solo design, but the hull is tweaked a bit to give it even better secondary stability. The boat is very forgiving and have enough volume to tackle moving currents and very easy rapids. We also added a fin to assist tracking, which can easily be attached to the stern with two bolts.

The moulded-in seat is comfortable, with high sides and backrest to keep the young paddler in the boat. Hassle free footholds are moulded in and can accommodate a large range of kid sizes. The 4 conveniently placed handles are moulded in to create a robust boat that can handle any kid’s abuse. The recessed compartment on the stern deck is ideal for little toys, rocks, shells, or any other treasures that the young adventurer might deem necessary to drag around.

Like all sit-on-tops, the Vaya is a sealed unit, making it a safe boat the introduce kids to paddling. It is easy to paddle and easy to carry/drag around.

The dagger scout or zydaco are worth looking at.

Dagger and Prijon make kids’ boats.

Perception Acadia Scout
Our kids are 7 & 8, and they each have an Acadia Scout from Perception. Boats are 25 lbs each and although very stable, are narrower than other rec boats. My 7-year old daughter isn’t really into kayaking (yet), so we’re not pushing it at all and just taking her out for short jaunts in the local lake. However, my 8-year-old son loves it, and hubby and I just got back from a 6-mile trip down one of the local rivers.

Whatever you get, make it fun, don’t push them, and prepare to tow periodically, because at that age they will get tired.


Grr… I meane Jackson and Prijon.

Take a
look at the pelican burst sot, I found one on sale for under $200. This boat is light (under 30#s and under 30" wide) and suits my 7 year old nicely.

It is worth looking at.

imagine yourself in a 40" wide kayak

– Last Updated: Sep-09-07 8:24 PM EST –

...and you'll understand why traditional adult rec boats are a mistake for kids. Get them into a boat in the 20-24" wide range, and they'll have something they can actually paddle efficiently.

Personal faves are the Carolina 12J (formerly the "Umiak") from Perception and the Necky Manitou 13. Both will cost several hundred more than an Otter/Prodigy/Zydeco, but will give the kids appropriately sized tools for them to use in learning. The Carolina 12J is a dedicated kid boat, but the Necky is versatile enough that it can be used by adults up to about 200 pounds with no problem.

These boats will cost more than a 9 footer, but the price becomes negligible when you recognize that the kids have boats they WANT to paddle vs boats they see as being uncomfortable and frustrating.

Kid’s boats
I’d concur with this recommendation. We put my niece into an Acadia Scout from Rutabaga two years ago and it was a huge success. She has now moved to a Wilderness Systems Tsunami SP (Smaller Persons) and is actually rolling it! She is 8 (!), a big girl and physically very adept. The Acadia Scout is a very good size, but if the child is narrow in the hip (and obviously many are) be ready to do some padding around them to give a good snug, supportive fit. And the comment about keeping it fun and being ready to provide a tow are right on the money; kids often don’t have the stamina to stay with an adult over a tough paddle. However, they sure do recover faster than we do! (I’m trying to teach her to tow me…)

kids kayaks
The Tsunami SP is very nice and a good fit for kids and smaller people. It paddles great, is fully outfitted, and very easy to roll. The Carolina 12 or the older Umiak can usually be found used. I think the Tsumani has more room to grow in both size and skills. I’ve paddled both and at 110lbs the Tsunami was just fine but I felt it was too much for the Carolina 12. Also as far as sit-on-tops the Ocean Kayak Kea is a very fun little kayak and isn’t too expensive.

Sea Flea
I cannot give you a more solid recommendation than the Sea Flea skin-on-frame designed by Tom Yost.

This is an 11’ long 19" wide kayak with extremely wonderful stability!

Of course, this means you will have to take the chance of getting addicted to building this simple little boat, but let me tell ya, its not that hard! (If “I” can do it, heck, anyone can!)

I built one for my 7 year old daughter…(with my daughter)… we worked on it for about 3 weeks… although most of the boat builders told me that it can be put together in about 40 hours… It took me a bit longer. Cost was about $200 dollars, and I have to say, it is a fantastic kayak! I was nervous about building a boat I had no idea of its performance, but this little and light boat (15lbs) really paddles sweet!

If you would like to know more about it, or you would like to see some great paddling pics email me or check out my pics on webshots:


I have building pics there, plus some videos demonstrating the ease of which the Sea Flea paddles for a seven year old.

The design and free pattern comes from Tom Yost’s website:


I really wanted to get my daughter into kayaking but just didnt have the $$$ to dish out for an expensive kayak that she would outgrow too quickly… building her a boat was definately an awesome choice… when she has outgrown the Sea Flea I will be tickled to build the 13’ Sea Bea or something bigger… Heck, I am so impressed with the simplicity of this design, I am seriously thinking about building one for myself, just so I have a kayak I can take out and beat up without worrying about scratching the gel coat… these are really tough little kayaks! Very Impressive!

Last paddle we were out for 5 hours, and my daughter handled the long paddle with very impressive ease for such a long day. The lightness of the skin on frame is definately worthy of a mention here!

Good Luck, and thumbs up for getting your kids paddling so young… its so rewarding to see them out there along side of you! My daughter loves it!!!



Perception Carolina 13.5
I paddle a Carolina 13.5, which is made for small adults, really. We did not spring for kid’s kayaks - just too much $$ to lay out. But when I bought my Carolina, one of the points in its favor was that it is managable for a kid. Our 9 yo boy paddles it pretty well (he’s small for his age). I should say that my Carolina is a few years old. I believe the newer ones might be a couple inches wider than mine.

Cobra Wave
I bought 2 of my grandkids Cobra Waves. If you can find one grab it. 10.5’x22" and light. The best kids SOT I have seen. It was based on the Wave Witch but without the rudder. I was impressed enough to buy a Wave Witch Horrizon from Hunt Johnsen, the designer. Episea makes kids kayaks along with Perception. Ocean has one also. There were a couple of Cobra Wave Witches in the classifieds on this site.

kid’s kayaks
Bought my Grandaughter (12) an Ocean Kayaks Kea Model. It’s a sot especially for kid’s & come with a paddle just the right size. Allready paid for itself by not having to rent one for her & she loves it.

Tsunami SP
my kids tried them and loved them. Great boat!



– Last Updated: Sep-10-07 6:35 PM EST –

If you think it wouldn't be too much of a project to tackle, consider building a stripper. I built a Redfish Parr for my little boy, and it's awesome. Here's a link to some pictures, I think you have to copy and paste the entire link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/84917002@N00/sets/72157600021420906/

The Parr can be 12 or 14 feet long, is only 18" wide, and is one beautiful kayak. It's width and great efficiency make it easy for kids to paddle. I think it's the perfect kayak for kids. To help with stability, you can build a pair of removable sponsons for it, but your kids probably won't need them. My son is only five and has had no problems with stability; after an initial test, I decided to not finish building the sponsons. Here's a link to the Redfish Parr page:

Also, One Ocean Kayaks is in the process of designing a small version of the Cirrus that will be suitable for kids. It's a stitch and glue kayak. From Vaclav: "The kayak is 14.5' x 20.9" and made for a weight range of 88 to 145lb."

I've built two strippers so far and I'll be building another one, a Redfish King, soon.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

Pedro Almeida

Absolutely Stunning!
Pedro, You did a beautiful job!

After building the sof for my daughter, I have decided that kayak building is definately too addicting to stop now! I want to build a stripper next!

Thanks for the link to the pics! Really inspiring!




Current Designs Raven

– Last Updated: Sep-10-07 9:32 PM EST –

My daughter started out paddling a Perception Acadia Scout – a very good boat for kids – and at a very reasonable price. I would suggest the addition of float bags for the Scout if you decide to go that way.

Last Christmas I bought my daughter a Current Designs Raven – it’s a scaled down 12’ long version of a sea kayak that is made with a fiberglass/kevlar hybrid construction – it weighs in at a very svelt 26 lbs! I don’t think there’s another kayak that comes as close to the “real thing” as the Raven – it truly is like a full sized sea kayak in every aspect. My daughter is very happy with hers and loves paddling it. You can see photos of it at the following link at my website:


Hope this helps,