Recreational Kayaking for the Family

My husband and I are looking at purchasing a kayak for recreational use on a large lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and for some fishing on the Muskegon River. I’ve been reading and reading and I’m just not sure where to start. We have 4 children and we’d like to start them out young. I’m sure this first purchase won’t be our last. We love the water. I’m guessing that we’ll be purchasing a tandem kayak, but I’m not sure if we should look at an SOT. I’d appreciate any advice or input.

SOT Tandems work great with kids
Two boats to look at are the Malibu 2, and the Hobbie Oddysey, also the Cobra Tandem. Make sure the kids have wet suits to swim when the water is colder than about 60.

Go to for more info about SOTs and paddling them in cold water areas.

Recreational tandems tend to be very heavy. It’s not an issue if you live on the water, but if you’re cartopping it can be a problem.

Sit-on-tops like the Ocean Kayak Kea make great playing-around boats for kids – nothing to worry about if it flips.

If you want to take four children out at once, it sounds like a 2-tandem or 2-canoe job. You should think seriously about how you’d handle a capsize with that kind of adult/child ratio.

Multiple boats
Honestly, I can’t imagine a paddle boat that would accommodate 2 adults and 4 kids. You really need more than one boat. Maybe even two tandems – one for each adult and two kids.

And unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, at least a couple of those kids are going to outgrow being passengers very quickly. So you’re looking at more boats very soon.

Your best bet might be renting some boats of various sizes and configurations – sit-on-top and sit-inside – to see what works for your family. That will let you know whether this is something you want to invest more money in, and, if so, what kind of boats seem to fit your family’s interests.

Necky Manitoa II
Check out the Necky Manitou II tandem kayak. My clan (myself, wife, 10yo & 4 yo) fit this nicely for now. I sit in the rear cockpit (where I control the rudder, which is VERY helpful in a tandem), and my wife sits in the front cockpit. It has a removable child seat(doubles as a hard dry storage area) for my 10yo, and my 4 yo has enough room to sit in my wifes lap in the front cockpit for now.In a year or two, I will get another solo for me or wife, and let the older child take over the front cockpit while the younger moves to the childseat. This would probably require a two boat setup for you, but the older kids in the front cockpit can actively begin paddling. This boat performs very well for a tandem, and is a hybrid rec boat/touring boat with great stability and tracking/control. It works great for us right now, & I thought i’d pass along my recomendation. I hope you all have fun on the water with whatever you decide.


family paddling plans?
Are you anywhere near Grand Rapids? If so Powers Outdoors has several locations where they can take you to water to test paddle boats which will make things clear to you quickly. Although there are tons of kayaks to choose from you’ll find by test paddling it’s easy to narrow down tandem choices. Weight will be a pretty big deal in the end so don’t discount that factor. Good luck and you are to be commended for getting your kids outdoors!

Yesterday at Lajolla …
the weather was pretty crappy for Easter in SoCal and there was a bit of a breeze, drizzle, wind, waves and chop. I think most people were at the mall or home watching TV. I was adjusting the fins, footblock, and seat belt on one of my waveskis in the crappy waves. I saw some guys who had their boats usually set for fishing, but with no fish gear, come down with four kids maybe 6-10 yo and two Hobbie peddle boats, the kids were wearing PFDs and wetsuits and were Stoked for going out on the water, they all jumped in and off they went through the small wind wave breakers. The smallest girl was the most stoked telling me they were going out to see the big waves and look for dolphins. The hobie tandems (Odyssey) are a bit heavy, but easy to move with a set of wheels. IF you add extra grab lines around the boat and open the hatch and use the inside as a grab hold they are fairly tractable for an adult male to put on the roof rack of a SUV with no problem alone. We took lots of beginners out on the ocean in the Oddysey, and took the boat on family trips to lakes where the kids paddled them all by themselves.

Powers Outdoors
Do you mean the Powers Outdoors shop in Newaygo? We are about an hour or so from the GR area. I’ll have to check that out. Thanks a ton!