Kayak Stabilizers

-- Last Updated: Jan-31-12 11:02 AM EST --

Looking for some guidance.
I have a Perception Carolina XS 12Ft single seat sit-in kayak that my 7 and 9 yr old boys have been using. Works great, and we love it, but I would like to add some stability to it for those times they get caught off guard by a side wave, etc. The more stable they feel, the more fun we can have.
I have browsed the web for do it yourself stabilizers/outriggers or affordable purchased models. I would prefer to not drill into kayak, but not firmly opposed. I would like the setup to be quick and easy to setup on the beach and not be too large for storage/travel.
Couple of questions:
1. Do these tend to slow the paddler down quite a bit? I don't want to make it harder for them.
2. Are two outriggers required or would one bigger one do the job? I don't need it to stabilize for standing up on or fishing from, just help control in waves..
3. How far out from the hull should the outrigger be? Don't want to make boat combersome to handle.

Any tried and true designs or affordable products out there? Look forward to the discussion.

Describe the waves?
The Carolina is a pretty stable boat, especially if a normal weight 7 and 9 year old is the paddler. I have to wonder what kind of waves you are talking about that would so readily cause a capsize - is this really a question of stabilizing the boat or reconsidering where you are paddling with the kids?

Also, if the thing does capsize, with outriggers it’d be maybe impossible for them to right it from the water for a self-rescue. If everyone is properly clothed, being able to do a normal on water self or assisted rescue may be safer for the boys than being stuck with an upside down platform that can’t be righted to get them out of the water. In very calm stuff I can see an argument that it’d be hard for them to capsize it (though you should never underestimate the ability of boys that age to do so, on purpose). But the wave thing has me wondering.

As I reread your post severasl times…
a thought came to mind.

How about a pool noodle attached to each side of the hull.

They could be crudely attached with duct tape, or attached with velcro glued to the noodles and the hull.

What ever you come up with will definately slow the boat down.

Jack L

I made some
I made some with styrofoam floats and a PVC frame. They are height adjustable. They looked cool and worked great. I made them for my wife’s kayak when she first started and was unsure of kayak stability. She used them only once and then realized that the kayak was quite stable, and could be balanced well just using her body and paddle.

In paddle-sport, we stabilize with… paddles… and if we’re caught out, and end up getting wet… we recover… and carry on.

Kids of 7 and 9 should also be more than capable of righting their kayaks off the end of another kayak… and quite possibly of rolling… and whoever is on the water with them (and someone should be) ought to be more than capable of a rescue (child back in kayak, deck replaced) inside a minute - inside 30 seconds is possible with practice.

If exposure is an issue, put the $$$ towards appropriate attire and carry the appropriate emergency kit for getting them dry and warm: surely beats trying to turn a kayak into a raft :slight_smile:

This little phrase caught my eye
"The more stable they feel, the more fun we can have."

Are you reading your feelings into what you think your kids are feeling?"

Kids 7 and 9 are far old enough to have a repertoire of basic rescues…self and assisted. I figure you will be going out with them… Teach them a boat over boat or side cockpit bail out… Then the heel hook to get back in.

The message you send with outriggers is fear and powerlessness. And your fear is misplaced. Kids of that age are going to capsize. They love it. If it happens once they will have such joy that they will do it over and over. And at this point you will be wringing your hands.

You all need to take a different approach… Kids of that age are normally quite capable.

More re kids that age
I do safety on demo days when schedules align, and there is one thing that I’ve learned to count on. No matter how many times I or their parents ask that they NOT capsize the boat, at least one or two boys that age will carefully wait until no one is looking and do it anyway. It’s fun, and they don’t tend to worry about how far they are from shore or any other such concerns.

It is way not fun when they have decided to do this in a barge of a rec boat with no bulkheads, but they don’t worry about that either.

We do evening practice sessions on a small lake where the launch is adjacent to a youth summer camp. They take their flotilla of basic kayaks out once or twice a day, with a couple of adults. We have yet to see the pack get more than 30 feet from shore before half of them are upside down, and the swimmers are trying to capsize the rest of them. They have a great time splashing around and they eventually get the boats upright and go back in.

By the way - I assume you can all swim and this isn’t part of the concern, yes?

Answer the questions please.

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 11:00 AM EST –

While I appreciate all the parenting and child rearing advise from complete strangers who don't know us or the situation, I would much rather that the questions I asked get answered. I'm not feeling I need to explain myself or all the background on why I want to do this so, back to the questions please. Thanks to those who have stuck to the topic at hand.

1 Like

You can cut them some slack

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 11:14 AM EST –

I understand your response to the replies about stability, swimming, etc. However, I will point out that this is an enthusiast's site, and the most active posters here have a perspective of kayaking that many newcomers do not. If someone logged onto a message board for photographers and asked how to modify their disposable camera so it would take better pictures, the replies might seem rude, but they would in fact just address the obvious. So don't take offense. The people who've responded so far are all really nice folks who have seen people approach this sport from an uninformed position before and aren't taking anything for granted.

Honestly, I don't understand the need for stabilizers either, and would ask questions before providing an answer. As the waves get bigger they will usually start flooding the cockpit before they get big enough to flip the boat. Usually, the feeling of "tippiness" in a rec boat is more perception than reality.

Got it - so to an earlier question…

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 11:38 AM EST –

Assuming that we are all being too nosy and you need a physical something to stabilize the boat - I go back to my first question about getting something so rigged out back upright.

Do you need to get a boat back upright should it manage to capsize, from being on the water rather than pulling the whole thing in to shore? Or would you be in a place where you could leave it upside down, get the kids to safety then go and retrieve the boat later?

It is very hard to answer this question without having an idea of what your recovery situation would be. The most effective stabilizers at keeping a boat upright may cause the greatest problem if they fail and you do have to recover from a capsize.

Barring any useful information along those lines, the pool noodles may be the best idea because of flexibility. They'd be fairly easy to get out of the way should you need to get the boat upright again on the water.

Homemade Stabilizers
Here’s what they do in Greenland to get the kids started at a young age:

http://www.qajaqusagallery.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=32254 .

Greg Stamer

I whole heartedly agree with you
Unfortunately every time someone asks a question on P-net there are those who want to spout their philosphy rather than answer the question that was asked.

That is probably the reason that a lot of the good posters have left the site over the years.

Jack L

and coming from a high end paddler too!

jack L

kids like falling out

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 12:07 PM EST –

ask them if they want a more stable kayak. ok,ok, just read the responses and your counter. Try a sequential process. Anything you add to the hull will detract from paddling so I'd start with 10lbs of bricks or water bottles secured to the bottom of the kayak. After that two small fenders tied off the sides.
A little weight on the bottom of the kayak doesn't change the hull shape but adds a LOT of stability.

My daughters were in kayaks from the time they were 5yrs old. kids under 100lbs are very stable in kayaks. When they tipped over it was because they wanted to. I towed my youngest in a glass Poquito for 45minutes, she fell asleep and was leaning back and to one side. Never tipped over. Weighed about 50lbs.

stabilizers, pro and con

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 1:33 PM EST –

I've hesitated to post on this because, though I do know some designs that use common materials to make stabilizers (helped rig some for a rec kayak that was going to be used, un-manned but remote controlled, to carry water testing instrumentation.)

My hesitation is that (please forgive me) I tend to agree with the others who recommend against doing this for a child's kayak. Bear with me, I will suggest some outrigger options out of respect for your parental concersn, but also listen to my argument against them.

If you've got two kids out in two boats, one option if the water gets so choppy you are really concerned, would be to outrigger the two boats together (two 8 foot long 1 1/2" PVC pipes with short 90 degree fittings and caps on each end slipped under the deck bungees on the bow and stern decks works). Better yet is stiff foam pool noodles (run a rope through the inside hole to lash them securely) because they flex with the waves. Pool noodles lashed along the sides as sponsons can improve stability but they get in the way of paddling -- in fact that is the drawback to nearly all sponsons and outriggers.

Greg is right, the Inuit used outriggers at times on their children's first kayaks but remember they were in the frigid open ocean and using much narrower boats with tiny cockpits and shorter and narrower paddles.

If you page through the "galleries" of homebuilt kayaks on the Yostwerks site there are a number of sponson designs that folks have rigged for small childrens' boats.

Now for my personal experience and source of my argument against them: I took far longer to learn to ride a bike than my friends or younger siblings and cousins due to my well-meaning parents' insistence on sticking "training wheels' (essentially outriggers) on the first 2-wheeler I had at 8 years old. They made the bike difficult to lean, wobbly feeling and hard to get the sense of how my body affected the handling. As a result I crashed it several times (it was easy to get unbalanced in a turn and there was no recovery once it went beyong the point of no return) and still have a scar on my chin as a result of skidding it across the top of a concrete wall I was unable to swerve to avoid. I became afraid of the bike and it was not until I attempted to ride a friend's bicycle without the trainers (on a dare) that I had that "Eureka!" moment of how great it felt to control the machine with my balance and body weight. I became one with that bike instantly -- went home, asked Dad to take off the wheels of my own bike and took off like a bat out of hell.

Outriggers on a kayak will make it slow and nearly impossible to brace or turn. They will drastically reduce the kids' "body feel" for the boats and their learning curve.


– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 1:53 PM EST –

Thank you. That is a meaningful post, as opposed to 'kids like to tip', 'My kids never tipped' which is not always the case and irrelevent to the discussion. I appreciate your thoughts and ideas. I have been kayaking and canoeing in many different environments for many yrs and consider myself rather experinced and agree with teaching the skills early, but sometimes things happen, weather changes, etc and the situation could be alot better with a little special gear. I like the tieing boatr together method. Thanks.

Go PĹŤpao

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 8:11 PM EST –

Outriggers are tried and true

The floats that Greg Stamer

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 4:50 PM EST –

posted a pic of are sometimes used here too for initial training for youngsters and also for adaptive paddling where people have balance issues such as from a TBI..but IIRC the kids in the Arctic never have just one tool in the toolbox. I heard from a Quajag member that kids never are allowed away from supervision until they have mastered the balance brace..

Contact tows are useful..rafting is useful and I am not dissing outriggers. How are your kids going to respond to floats? Will they always use them?

Whatever you do have fun and keep expanding everyones skills..the floats are step 1 out of a big set of stairs.

I don't know how homemade floats( and you can use two inflatable paddle floats and a spare paddle) work if it gets really gnarly..Seems the shaft ought to be fixed pretty securely so it does not twist out of perpendicular to the boat.

I used some once with my four year old grandson before he had really any skills and also with the two year old who wanted his own boat. (We let him "kayak") on a tether at an inland lake beach). But quickly the older one wanted to actually capsize and do rescues. It really became his favorite thing to do..and the adults quickly tired of "going to Joeys rescue". Then he learned he had to do the rescue himself!

Outriggers & Alternatives…
Here in the “windy isles”, rafting canoes to get a group across an exposed stretch of open water is regarded as a core leadership skill: familiarity with techniques is expected of anyone leading a peer group in “moderate” (as opposed to “sheltered” or “advanced”) environments.

The following article is as good as anything I’ve encountered on the subject: http://www.beyondadventure.co.uk/Text/Coacharticles/canoerafting.html

Rafting with sea kayaks is also much discussed… but I’ve only come across it in slightly different (and perhaps less pertinent) contexts such as towing an incapacitated paddler. E.g. http://www.kayarchy.co.uk/html/02technique/003raftingupandtowing/001.htm

Re. Single vs. twin outriggers… you might want to consider the following argument:

***** Quote *****

2.4 Why aren’t two outriggers better than one?

Limitations with the double outrigger existed in that in deep rough water the primary hull became suspended between two large swells with the outer floats (ama) in contact with the swell peaks at either side. Thus the single outrigger overcame this problem ensuring that the primary hull always remained in contact with the water. The single outrigger canoe was therefore better able to cope with larger wave and swell action, given the natural materials available to the designers.

***** End Quote *****

Twin outriggers are used by some in the UK for canoe-sailing… with the most sophisticated solution to date having the outriggers mounted well above the water surface (so only becoming engaged when the canoe is heeled). Shaping, buoyancy, positioning and matters arising (such as righting a canoe that has capsized despite outriggers) have all turned out to be complicated matters… but the craft are larger and they are carrying substantial sails!

Ps. Just a thought: could enough security be gained by using spare paddles to mount a pair of inflated paddle-floats 6" above the water on either side of the kayak?

angle them upwards?

Just a spur-of-the-moment thought. Suppose you make two floats on both sides, but angle them slightly upwards? say 20 degrees? That way they will stay out of the water when kayak is level and “engage” when it tips.

It’s gonna look odd and I have not heard of anyone doing it, but hey, maybe it can work? I’m just saying.