stabilizers/pontoons-overweight paddlers

Aloha! I am a kayak outfitter/tour guide owner in hawaii. We are doing day ocean kayak trips in calm warm waters for overweight teens at a weight loss camp. The kids are eager and motivated to paddle but even in the OK SOT big Zest Two doubles (two to a boat), they tip a lot and have a real hard time getting in especially if it happens several times.

I really need your suggestions on kayak pontoons or stabilizers etc. or other ideas for ballast etc.-- any ideas you have to keep these kids upright in the boats?



Hawaii Pack and Paddle

Captain Cook, Hawaii

They’ll work. But, really, isn’t there
another activity that would be as much fun (assuming that much paddling for a beefy kid who hasn’t seen much physical activity is fun) that doesn’t require balance? It would seem better to save the paddling for when there have been weight loss results, better stamina, and less groaning at the idea of any physical activity. The need for stabilizers would be lessened at a later stage. Besides, its not easy to teach two to paddle a tandem in a short time…assuming you are putting two to a kayak.

Don’t mean to rain on your program, it may be well designed. But, just suggesting that the paddling experience later in the program may be better timing.

Try posting under,
Advice, Suggestions and General Help.

You may get more help.

Good luck :slight_smile:

Never used sponsons

– Last Updated: Jul-23-07 7:34 AM EST –

Assuming you're doing it in appropriate water and have enough safety paddlers along, I think it's great that you're getting these kids active in a low-impact sport.

I would think that having two overweight, inactive teens to a boat may be too much. Rather than sponsons on the tandems, I'd think it might be better to put one kid per boat or maybe to use a boat that's more stable - like a large inflatable kayak. I don't know what water you're in, so it's hard to say.

Or maybe some balance exercises before doing the kayaking. Not sure how to do that, but I know from experience that taking inexperienced people into a boat is tough. They move fast and jerky instead of slow and smoothly, they lean way over instead of craning their necks, etc.

Edit to add: A buddy of mine who does some teaching swears that he's going to start forcing students to do belly dancing before getting in the boats to loosen up their hips. Maybe belly dancing with overweight kids wouldn't be too kind, but some sort of exercise to get their torsos rotating and hips rolling would help their balance in a kayak.

- Big D

Center of Gravity x2
Heavy often means a high center of gravity when seated in a kayak. Take that times two people…both moving…and you already have a problem.

  • Try keeping them in solo kayaks.
  • Look at longer paddles so they don’t have to move their torsos as much to get the blades in the water.
  • Think about kayaks that are rated 25-30 percent over the weight of your heaviest paddler.
  • Talk a bit about how more weight and movement affect the balance of the boat in the water before you launch.
  • Take a little extra time puddling around to build confidence in the balance of the boat before paddling off.

    Because of ease of entry/re-entry, a SOT is the right answer… Malibu Kayaks makes several models that are designed with high weight ratings.

    Good luck!


Stabilizers look great!
Thanks for the links for these excellent outriggers. This has got to be the way to go! I will try this out on one boat with the next crew in a few weeks. And then maybe modify almost all my sit-on-top doubles for next summer’s program.

I have also appreciated all your points of view which are very helpful. Yes, i think the overweight teens should do some hula first, to get better balance and coordination and to keep their center of gravity lowe. I am also going to stick a couple of water bags in each kayak for ballast. I will try it all! Waiting until near the end of their program when they have lost the most weight and clambered on trails makes a lot of sense too!


captain Cook, Hawaii

Pontoons or stabilizers
If these kids are eager and motivated, you should do all you can to help them enjoy the sport as much as possible. I think it will encourage them to lose more weight.

Betsy, you have mail

spring creek
Hi, Betsy. Great work you’re doing! I used to live on Oahu and know right where you guys are paddling. I’ve also been a big big person (wide, that is) and the advice to have the kids wait until they lose weight is not good advice. Paddling is great exercise and fun for big folks because it’s not weight bearing and because it inspires us to keep active and gives us hope that we can look forward to more great outdoor adventures as we get more healthy. I think that from a business perspective tandems are popular in Hawaii for rentals and I get that but the bigger the paddlers, the harder it is to keep a tandem upright so you might want to consider a few singles for more options. There are lots of good SOT options for really big teens and the links in the post above are a good start.

I use Spring Creek stabilizers on a solo canoe when fishing and they are fantastic. The company is family-owned and you could talk with them about any modifications you’d want to make to the rigs to fit them to your SOT fleet… they’re basically just aluminum tubing of various sizes and shapes with spring catches and foam floats. Low maintenance and the positions of the floats are adjustable.

Good luck getting your new setups together. And thanks for your efforts!