Kid's boat...ballast vs. outrigger?

Ok, I’ve finished my eldest daughter’s SOF. She isn’t particularly excited with the tippiness, though I know she can grow into it (probably just as she grows out of the boat). I was originally thinking about making an outrigger, possibly off both sides and not actually in contact with the water unless she leans. I think she would use it as a crutch and just lean to one side for the stability rather than learn to balance correctly. The other problem is that it would slow her down and make paddling not so fun. My second thought was on adding ballast low in the boat to help her like a weeble-wobble. Speed could be maintained easier, but I’m not sure the last-ditch stability would be there like outriggers. Any experience, thoughts, suggestions? Thanks.


2 two liter bottles
I placed two 2-liter bottles at the bottom of my daughters boat, pinned beneath the float bags and it made a world of difference for her. She was MUCH more confidant in the boat. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more fun it made paddling for her. I would highly recommend adding a small amount of fixed ballast. The boat still leans and turns without giving a false sense of stability. (My daughter just turned 7 this week.)

Do The Ballast
paddle with her along the shore to give here a chance to get use to the boat. Several outings, I am pretty sure she’ll get used to it. The SOF will feel tippy for anyone coming to it from a commercial boat, expecially a rec type. Takes a bit of time for the body/mind to acclimate and trust the new boat.


Thanks, gents.
You confirmed my suspicions. I’ll start looking into mounting removeable ballast in the bottom. It should be a simple lash/bungie to a couple of ribs.

Have ya tryed it much yet?
Cool that ya finally got it done!

Couldn’t get her to let go
of the coaming. Every time she was holding the paddle and ready to go, it would lean a little, she’d let go of the paddle, grab the coaming and lock up. She doesn’t have the confidence nor the body awareness that your lil’ paddle partner has, so I’m going to have to give her more time and work with her more even with the ballast.

kids kayak and balance
I am just about to get a boat for my 7 and 9 year old boys. They seem to have good balance - in a canoe and in my 23" wide single - but the boat I am looking at is 20 inches wide and 14 feet long. I worry about spoiling their expereince if they are paranoid about balance or capsize issues. I want to get them the epi-sea kids kayak or the Carolina 12 which is a bit wider and shorter. They look like good boats for kids, but I am more concerned now after reading this email thread. Should I considr different, wider boats. I’d love to start them with a more narrow boat, but…thoughts?

Depends On Your Design
jim never mentioned how wide the boat is and how this compares to what she was/is paddling.

The Episea is a 20" beam. That could be narrow or wide, depending on the individual child and what she is used to or not. The aft coaming is around 8". That’s not a lot for an adult but is for a smaller kid, especially one that may be learning a sweep layback roll.

If you build an SOF, you can make it any dimension you deem appropriate. The stability feel is affected by both the beam and dead rise (angle from the keel line to the chine). A 22’ wide kayak with a significant deadrise (great secondary when moving in rough conditions) will feel more unstable while sitting in water than a 19" wide boat with little or no deadrise under the seating area.


Fear not.
Lexy’s SOF ended up 18" X 11’8" with 7" from floor to rear coaming if I remember correctly. Here’s a pic:

Notice the paddle blade in the water is floating. It’s got stability, but not like the Pungo140 that she paddled (with me in the boat too). I know Northman’s youngest daughter could hop in this thing and paddle laps around the lake. My daughter is not as coordinated though. She’ll just need more time, and won’t be hand rolling any time soon. :wink:


I Think It’s A “Confidence” Factor
then for her to paddle alone if she is used to paddling with you in the boat. Take it slow, give her time. That SOF looks to have plenty of volume and stability for her. My SOF is 18" wide and it feels plenty stable to me now (not so when I first got in it). Walk in the water along the outside of her boat while she paddles parallel to the shore.


Great pic Longshadow!!! You tell…
That sweet little angel that Uncle Coffee has all the faith in the world in her. & she’ll be paddling with us in the spring!!!

Lex, your dad is a great researcher & has done a good job on YOUR boat! I know he would make that thing safe enough for you to trust it! If you tip over… Just pretend you’re jumping off my boat like at Bear Lake & jump right back in and paddle more :wink:

So, Jimmy, when you getting a Greenland Paddle??? LMAO!!!

Paddle easy,


maybe let her do some stabilty tests
in a couplr inches of water. Let her climb in in that depth first? Or get yerself and wife to stand on either side holding below her vision then ease of ? not sure Em would do any better , her Otter is almost impossible to tip.

Make it fun and short
She looks about as happy as my daughter the first time I put her in her boat :). Don’t push it and try to keep it fun. The ballast will help. Last year(alas without the ballast) my daughter was very tentative. This year she’s zipping around the lake. When it gets warm again play games with the boat. This summer my daughter and three of her friends took turns trying to stand in my kayak. It was a confidence builder for them and they enjoyed watching me fall every time I tried. It’s amazing how fast kids progess, just be patient.

As an interesting aside, my daughter was more uncomfortable in a flat-bottomed rowboat we paddled one weekend than she ever was in her kayak. It really surprised me. She has gotten used to the nice way that waves pass under her little 20" wide kayak and didn’t like the rocking in the rowboat.