Which Beginner Kayak for Kids

I want to purchase two into/beginner kayaks for my children. They are 40lbs and 4ft tall and 5 ft and 80lbs. I am considering a couple of the 9.5 ft models (Otter, Swifty, Zydeco, Acadia Scout). My wife and I are also short and we each weigh less than 160lbs, so we may be able to use these, but the kids are our first priority - we want them to enjoy and succeed.


  • stability
  • easy to turn
  • low weight (35-42lb range)

    Specific question around 9.5 versus 10.5 length and whether or not we can get the same stability, yet easy of turning, in a model that is 10.5. The 9.5 versions seem to be stable and turn easily, but from what I have read they really do not track well. Will a 10.5 have all our requirements, but also provide better tracking? Or, do we lose either stability and/or turning ease?

    Any advise/recommendations on these or other models with regard to good starter kayaks for kids, would be greatly appreciated.

as always it depends
I use a couple different models of 9.5’ sit ins and a couple of 10’ sit on tops. I paddle mostly on small inland rivers. Tracking isn’t that much of an issue since long straight streches of river are the exception. Turning and manuverability are more important to me. On the other hand if I was paddling open water and the quickest way to get where I wanted to go was in a straight line I would probably view tracking as far more important.

I started
my daughter in a Otter 9’. I don’t think between 9’ and 10’ you will see much diffence tracking and turning. For better tracking , look for a boat with track bars in the hull. 2 grooves molded along the length of the hull. That said , even without the track bars , the Otter tracks reasonably straight. I think learning to paddle is more important to tracking . Any of the 9-10’ rec. boats should work for ya. The weight may be an issue for carrying , so compare weights of the boats.

Check out
the Necky Manitou, it comes in two lengths and is priced right. I should work well for you.

agree on the Manitous
I picked up a Manitou 13 for my kids (8 and 11), as I wanted a boat that was wide enough to provide fair initial stability, but not so wide to make paddling difficult. Adults have to keep in mind that a 29" wide kayak is MUCH wider than a smaller lighter paddler needs - and will be hard to paddle, since the sides are so far away from their centers. You should also look around for a Perception Umiak/Carolina 12 (same boat, different names). The most “sea kayak” of all the small paddler boats, though it does need the addition of floatation bags in order to be safely used in all but shallow, slow rivers.

Kid’s Fast Kayaks
Although probably not what you’re originally looking for, you may want to check out the KayakPro Lightning or the Nelo Tarka (KayakPro has it’s own website www.kayakpro.com and www.mkayaks.com has info on the Tarka). Both these boats are probably around 20 pounds & sell for less than $1000. They are entry level kids racing kayaks, so they are light, fast, and said to be stable. I believe they both come with a tiller bar rudder system so tracking should be excellent. They should be fine for protected inland waters. Maybe the biggest problem would be the parents keeping up with the kids!

My Two Kids
started in a touring boat designed for kids, the Umiak, now called Carolina 12. The other option is the EMC Episea (which I like alot). The other option, no longer in production but on the used market, is the WS Piccolo. The thing with these kayaks that have beams that suitable to kids and small adults. When they paddle, they dont’ bang their hands against the coaming or reach out so far with too-long paddles and yaw all over the place. Kids in these touring kayaks can keep up with the adults in longer touring boats.

Of course, these recommendations only apply if you’re looking for longer touring boats.


Kids Yaks
Wildy has several yaks that might be a good fit for both you and your kiddos. The Pungo 100 would make a great sit in and both the Tarpon 100 and Ripper would be good SOTs to check out.

I hope that you live in an area where you can try out all of the suggested brands recommended in these threads.

The Swifty is a fantastic
yak for kids as well as adults to learn in and then keep as play boats when and if they decide to get touring yaks.



Probably not
what you’re looking for, but I’d suggest the Jackson Fun 1 and Fun 2.

They’re WW boats, but by far the biggest aspect for kids that age is to have fun. They’re easy to turn, responds to their slightest command and inherently stable.

Resale is high and a good Jackson dealer should even let you trade up when the time comes.

My son in a 1.5 has no trouble with 5 mile+ flatwater jaunts.

His cousin was introduced to a polyethylene fishing yak and now wants nothing to do with them.

No one mentioned the Kea yet
It is an Ocean Kayak model. We rented them for the kids on the bay and they loved them. I’m not a kayaker but thought I would throw the Kea out there in case you’re considering a SOT.

My son likes his Kea
He seems to take to it pretty instinctively, as have a number of his friends who’ve played around in it.

Yak for kids
A perception Sundance is a great Yak for little people. 9ft and very stable. I just started last year with this boat and have moved up to a cross over so I can do faster rivers and some rapids.

If your interested Ihave the sundance for sale. :slight_smile: