New, never kayaked, which one for family


My name is Kate and I’m interested in getting the family some kayaks. I’ve never kayaked but do have experience on the water. Husband has kayaked before at his previous job, but really doesn’t know much about them.

I’m curious about the difference about sit in and sit on top models, and which are safer for children. I have a 5 year old and an almost 4 yr old. We plan on using these primarily at the beach on the sound side. I do worry about tipping when getting in, so I’m after something very stable and safe.

I would be looking for two 2 seaters and possibly a smaller kayak to start to teach my daughter how to paddle. I have seen 6 ft kayaks, I assume those are for children?

I myself weigh 150, my husband 250. We would be in separate kayaks of course with one child with each of us that weigh under 50lbs.

As you can see I really know nothing about the subject, so if someone can give me some advice or point me in the right direction,min would be very grateful.

Thank you,


I’m not much help

– Last Updated: Jun-08-14 8:09 AM EST –

But I can tell you how to find some. First tell us where you are located, then someone from your area will tell you where you can find a knowledgeable renter or dealer who put you on the water to see what works. It is frustrating to buy something then find a slightly different model works better for you.

Get on the water and paddle before dropping big bucks, you will spend less in the long run, and very little if you turn out to be one of those strange people who do not like paddling.

With the right boats and good advice, my guess is you will become addicted like most of us here.


P.S. A comfortable high quality PFD (life jacket) adds a lot to the experience.

Located in dauphin island, al. Not wanting to shell out tons of money, maybe go more expensive as the kids get older. Just looking for casual paddling around, maybe some fishing.

Thanks for your reply.

Capsizing and boat sizing

– Last Updated: Jun-08-14 7:26 PM EST –

First - being able to capsize and not get flustered is GOOD. Children usually get this, in fact I have seen many make a game of capsizing kayaks. They have a great time. It's the adults who have an issue with this.

You just want to make sure they are doing it where you can swim them and the boat in - having gotten a kid in and his rec boat without flotation back to shore at a demo day, it can be a pain.

Sit in versus sit on top -
Honestly, two kids of that age and likely size aren't going to capsize much of anything unless they try.

But what are you really asking here - are you worried about someone being stuck in the boat if they capsize in a sit-inside? If a very small child is in a a boat with a very large cockpit, things could go off the rails. But FYI being actually stuck a a kayak is highly overrated as a risk in itself - you slide out.

That said, I have seen people panic once upside down and that can be a problem. Go back to the top - none of you are really safe in a kayak of any kind, especially if you are responsible for kids - UNLESS you practice capsizing and getting back onto the boat on the water. Safety in a paddle boat is NOT in failing to capsize, but being able to get back into the boat if it does occur.

Odds are that you have more work to do here than your kids do.

As to kayaks sized for kids - yours may be too small to find much available. But it has almost nothing to do with length. It is all about the boat being narrow and low enough to the water for a torso that size to be able to get a paddle into the water effectively. Yeah, boats that likely seem too narrow to be safe to you. But I your kids are shorter and weigh a lot less.

I suggest that you start with sit on tops if you want one child per adult because any tandem sit inside that fits you or your husband will swallow up either of the kids. They won't be able to paddle worth a darn and I suspect they won't have as much fun as if they feel closer to the water.

Or consider pack canoes, if you are going to stay inside from the waves.

As above, it'd help a lot if you could give a rough location. People could suggest a good outfitter to get you started.

Goode’s Lake on the Escatawpa

– Last Updated: Jun-08-14 11:00 AM EST –

would be an excellent place to safely work on basic skills, once you have boats. Locally the beach and camping concession has long been known as Presley's Outing. Try to visit on a weekday when it's quieter.

The Escatawpa is an easy drive from Dauphin, and the "lake" is protected from currents in the main river.

Hey neighbor
As soon as cross onto the island there are a couple places that rent kayaks, I would start there to see what the kids think of it before you drop too much money.

For a tandem sit inside you would need one where the rear seat is on rails so you can properly trim the boat. Look at a West Marine Saba tandem. Other manufactures have similar boats but I can tell you finding the large cockpit tandems on Craigslist from New Orleans to Panama City is pretty rare and when they do show up they aren’t discounted much and go fast. Your options for used boat is going to pretty much dictate a Sit on top, which is what the rental places carry. If you buy a used SOT you can always sell it for what you paid. SOTs are wide, as are the big cockpit tandems, so you need to consider how to carry them.

Currents around the island can be strong, get PFDs that are comfortable enough that you and the children will wear them.

Fairhope Boat Company is the closest to you if you want to talk to a kayak dealer. They also rent and I think give classes also. Also there is Everything Kayak in MS who just relocated to Gulfport near the outlet mall at 49 and I-10. I haven’t been to the new store yet but I hear they have a pool so you can test boats in the store. Everything Kayak carries a pretty good selection of outdoor technical clothing if you’re serious about water sports. Even if you buy used boats, after you have gone out a few times and decided you like it you should go by one of the outfitters and look at PFDs and Paddles and just see what is out there to make you’re water time more enjoyable.

Over in Pascagoula next weekend they are having a paddle festival with a moonlight kayak parade on the river. South Coast Paddling Company will be there renting kayaks.

Rent, rent and rent some more
No one here can suggest what to buy.

You and hubby and the kids need to try some out then go from there.

You’ll get a good idea of the size and style

start by trying some sit on tops.

Jack L.

article on kayak types
I wrote an article for California Kayaker Magazine that talked about the different kayak types (sit inside vs sit on top vs rec, etc.). it can be read online at issue #10, spring 2013.


– Last Updated: Jun-10-14 9:32 PM EST –

There are a good series of articles covering most of your questions right here on P-NET:

There's a general introduction to paddling encompassed in five truly starting out articles, then scrolling down the page, there's a series of another five articles covering the more specific introduction to kayaking.

The latter initiates with a review of kayak types and their uses, and subsequent articles progress through paddles, then cover techniques and strokes, and concludes with one addressing recoveries.

You'll note these two series of articles follow much of the advice given by respondents to your original post. especially Celia's post. Reading them will give you a very good review of, and overview of, the things you and your family should be considering and weighing as you contemplate getting on the water.

BTW, I sent you a separate email that included some other things you can also consider, such and boat weights, transportation, etc., which also ought to be figured into your choices.

Best of luck in making decisions, choices, and eventually buying some waterborne family fun for you and your crew! Here's to a great time this summer for all of you as you


-Frank in Miami