My husband and I have been canoeing for awhile, jut small inland lakes and rivers, and I think I’d like to learn to kayak. I’d like to take lessons because I’d really not like to drown :wink: The rolling part scares me a little. Two questions…what sort of lessons should take? I’ve seen really inclusive weeks-long classes, and two hour jumpstart classes. Is there a huge advantage to the longer ones? Or would I be ok with a basic jumpstart course and then some on-my-own learning, followed by maybe a more advanced lesson or two later?

Second, my nine-year-old son is really tired of sitting in the middle of the canoe, so I’d like to have him learn, too. He’s not a great swimmer, but with a pfd, which he’s never without in any boat, I assume he’ll be fine for the lessons? Or is there some great need for swimming that I’m not anticipating? And is he even old enough to be really safe in a kayak by himself?



From an old timer…
PFD or not, I don’t think any one should be in a canoe or kayak unless they can swim, or unless they are in water that they can stand up in.



8 and 10 yr old s have their own boats. If you get recreational kayaks they are difficult to tip and near impossible for a kid to flip. Depending on your paddling agenda , this might be the type of kayak to get. I prefer the 9’ boats for kids , as the weight and manuverability is better. However, the shorter the boat the slower speed wise. My girls both are good swimmers and wear PFD’s. I had em test the PFD’s to show em how well they would hold em up in the water. Also to let em understand if ya fall out , no need to panic.

Any and all lessons are good
I think your idea of lessons are a great start. it shows you are approaching this in an intelligent manner.

I would suggest you start with the introductory classes. This will give you an idea of what you may already know about the water, and what you don’t know. What you don’t know, can harm you. After the introductory lessons, you will have a better idea of what the advanced lessons will teach you, and what you need to learn.

Try looking and asking around for a local paddling club. I can’t see from your profile where you live, but there has to be one somewhere in your area.

I am sure your child will enjoy it too, just make sure he has the best PFD you can buy, and make sure it fits him well. Take him to water while wearing it, and “drop him in” in a off balance manner, and help him learn to right himself and be safe. I would think with proper lessons, and a GREAT PFD, he would be OK in a kayak as long as you & your husband were right with him all of the time. Stick to calm sheltered water with him as he learns to handle the kayak.

Happy Paddling!

No need to roll
If you kayak in a rec kayak that you can easily get out of if dumped … you do not need to learn how to roll. Many of us do not even kayak with spray skirts so rolling is unnecessary. You DO need to know your safety lessons!!! You do need to know how to get back in, or stay very close to the shallow waters and have friends with you who know how to assist you. Sounds like you like gentle waters … but knowing how to swim would be a good thing for your son.

The wife and I do not know how to roll … but we do know how to get out if we capsize, and get back in. We paddle the same conditions you mention. Someday I will take rolling lessons, but I doubt the wife ever will. We are still kayakers!

Need for Rolling
I echo the above sentiments - you only need a roll IF you paddle in water where a short swim to land isn’t available due to distance or waves. In that situation the usefulness of a skirt is to keep you from getting water on yourself or into the cockpit, especially if it rains. For that situation, a basic nylon skirt that will fall off a plastic kayak with the slightest weight placed on it will do. Plastic kayaks generally have fairly rounded coamings, and nylon skirts are generally not all that tight.

You do need to assume that someone could flip the boat, and can swim from where the flip occurs to shore. I don’t care what kind of boat you are in - I’ve seen people take the widest of rec kayaks over in absolutely calm water.

But there is another concern I have - if you afraid of being over in the boat before you ever set foot in one, it is very possible that you could panic when it happened. As someone who had to overcome claustrophobia to get my roll (and I still have to get upside down on a regular basis or I’ll lose my ability to control it), I can point to a few things that you should look for in lessons from personal experience.

First - because tension kills a roll, you shouldn’t even think about really trying to learn a roll until you are comfortable with a basic wet exit and an alternative means of getting in the boat. A fast track course entirely focused on rolling could be at the least a nonproductive use of time and money, and at the worst could leave you even more uncomfortable than you are now. (BTW, it’s not the norm for both people in a couple to be evenly matched in their comfort levels.)

Second - you should find a small class or a private coach where you can practice wet exits with a very high degree of support nearby. And work on just that. If it is in the pool, make sure that you continue it outside. People who have been fine in a pool have been known to get quite scared the first time they did a wet exit in real water.

Third - make sure that you are in a nylon or otherwise quite loose skirt to start with. Some WW coaches are fans of quite tight skirts - don’t get talked into that. You shouldn’t have a skirt that absolutely requires you pull it off until you have calmed down enough to be able to go over and comfortably count to ten before feeling the need to exit.

A lot of the active posters on this board do quite challenging kayaking where skills like rolling become much more critical. But there is a world of great kayaking out there near shore in non-challenging water.

Thank you all…
I didn’t expect advice so quickly!

I should say, it’s not so much rolling I’m afraid of…It’s being stuck upside down underwater and not knowing how to right myself again. But it sounds like I can begin in a boat where that’s not an issue.

I think maybe I’ll have my son run through swimming lessons before we go too far. He swims, but not well enough not to panic.

I’m in SE MI. We have a few local places, but I haven’t really checked any out yet. Any recommendations near Ann Arbor are greatly appreciated.

Thanks again!

Maximixe floatatoin front and rear
that means secured float bags or hatches and bulkheads not the inherent floatation of a foam coreed boat or somethin useless like that. Again if you can swim to shore that is not important.

You need to swim in the water you paddle in to assure proper dress for immersion. Turning ovea a rec boat in 45 degree water on a 75 degree air temp day can kill, absolutely. I paddle this way with my daughter in my 29 inch rec boat but she is disciplined about leaning the boat, and my normal boat is 21.5 inches of beam and I do not go over unintentionally in flat water any more. I have done my share though.

If you are planning to rescue your child if needed (perhaps by doing someting like going in yourself and putting them on their back on your stomach or chest while you kick to shore, you should both practice that. If you use a pfd for practice then you better wear one every time, (I do to set a good example for my daughter and the neighborhood youth.

On capsizing in flat water: I don’t do that unintentnioally any more, (though I might be influenced to tell the story about capsizing on my honeymoon after a breatfast of wedding cake and a bottle of excellent champagne per person; good excuse to use the fireplace andyway :-).

Welcome to P.net and thanks for your courteous response

Possible Coaches/Lessons
Don’t get thrown by the names - these groups do probably mostly kayaks these days.

The American Canoe Union has a website, but its “Schools and Outfitter’s” page is still under construction. Nonetheless, there may be a phone number you can call to get names and where they are based.

The British Canoe Union has a page (URL http://www.bcuna.com/Pages/Main-Pages/Coaches.shtml#Michigan) listing coaches in Michigan. There are quite a few, with contact info.

One more thing - what you describe as your concern is exactly what I was talking about. It relates to rolling because it has to be overcome, but it is a problem regardless of what you are doing. Until you have practiced enough to believe that getting “stuck” in a boat is a very remote possibility in open water, you are at risk of an inappropriate response if you flip.

And the points about floatation and clothing are good catches. You need flotation front and back if there is no sealed bulkhead because, unlike a boat with wood in it, a flooded kayak is capable of sinking. A family member of mine who did not seek advice could attest to this fact…

It sounds like you will be having a lot of fun this summer. Just don’t get too attached to that first boat - if you like kayaking well enough it’ll soon be replaced by another (and another, and another…)

Buying the boat…
We live near Cabela’s, and I’ve already been scoping out the boats. LOL…I have no clue what I’m looking at, of course, but I can tell by the price tags that I’ll be doing alot of research before buying anything!

Re: the rolling. I understand what you mean. I had that sort of unexpected reaction once while snokeling. I didn’t expect to have a family of barracuda appear under me as I paddled along, and had a bit of a panic attack. Something I would’ve liked someone to have mentioned before I encountered it!

I found a place that gives kayaking lessons in a pool near here. I think I’ll start there. Controlled conditions, experienced instructor, no barracuda. :wink:


The fear of being trapped in
the boat, upside down is a typical worry early on–in fact, after you try actually flipping your boat (in shallow water, with someone standing next to you), you’ll discover the real difficulty is staying in the boat. Your bouyancy will pull you up and to the surface before you know what happened.

Don’t be surprised if rolling, which seems so bizarre now, one day becomes one of your favorite aspects of kayaking : )

Sanjay (a rollaholic who never thought it could happen to me)

For advice on the boat
There are features that make your life a lot easier in a boat - selaed bulkheads front and back so you don’t have to mess with float bags, and the longest waterline (length) you think you can handle so it is a reasonably efficient paddle. But a lot of that translates from canoes.

As to specifics, questions like appropriateness of fit and comfort for the long haul, you may want to start looking at boats then check back on this board with what you’ve found and your size (height and weight). One of the things this board really excels at is giving real-life experience practical advice on how well a given boat has wroked for someone of a given size. In fact if you are an average sized woman, you’ll probably get better advice here than at most kayak shops which handle a lot of rec boats.

Good luck with the lessons, and come back to let us know how it is going.