Advice for getting 10 y/o son into kayaking. IK vs hardshell, etc. - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-13-2018   #1
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 14
Advice for getting 10 y/o son into kayaking. IK vs hardshell, etc.

I'm wanting to get my 10 year old son into kayaking this season and he has some experience paddling my boats around the pool and paddling tandem in our Aire Tomcat Tandem IK which he loves. Ideally I think it would be nice for him to get comfortable controlling an IK and fueling the stoke on some class IIish rivers before teaching him to roll but I think our Tandem IK would be big and sluggish for him alone (hopefully not). He's 4'10" 90 lbs. I'm not sure I want to spend $500-700 on a high-end single seat IK and am debating about maybe getting a more budget $300 single IK or just starting him in a used hardshell like a Remix 47, Jackson Fun 1.5, etc.

What have some of you parents found to be a good way to get them started? He's an interesting kid in that he's incredibly athletic and loves to be adventurous once he gets into something new but he starts out somewhat timid in the beginning (which is a good thing in this sport). He loves paddling around the pool and he's fine with letting me flip him without a skirt but he hasn't warmed up to wet exiting yet which is why I think it would be good for him to paddle an IK first and get stoked for part of this year and then we can start getting him comfortable upside down.

-Would our tandem likely be too much for him on his own?
-Are any of the $200-300 IK worth considering
-Or should I just get him a plastic boat and start him there?
-Is there such thing as a cheater skirt that is enough to keep most of the water out on easy runs but that takes almost no effort to pull and swim?


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Old 05-14-2018   #2
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Longmont, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 60
My son Bryce, who is now 10 yo, started October 2017. He's doing Class III pretty easily, has all his rolls: on and off sides hand roll, back decks, sweeps, etc...stern and bow squirts, etc...With that said, here is his progression which started with my advice & help, his natural work ethic & passion, and advice & help from others. He's also been in the water since he was 6 mos old, and is a very strong swimmer. My experience is I kayaked a few seasons a long time ago, but got out of it for 15 yrs. I got back into kayaking via sea kayaking in early 2017, but never had a roll.

The mantra with keeping kids in the sport is "keep it fun, and keep all experiences positive". They are kids.

Bryce first tried an old Dagger Freefall LT of mine in a local lake. He just got in the boat (with pfd), floated, and paddled around in circles without a skirt. He did what kids would normally do, just have fun. He did. Then, I had him jump out of the boat. More fun. Then, I taught him self rescue (with air bags), cowboy style. Tons of fun. After he got comfortable with that, the following week, he started learning how to paddle. A week later, several weeks into summer, I introduced the spray skirt & learned to wet exit. After about a month, I picked up another used sea kayak, a 14' Current Designs Squall (ended up too small for me), but he loved it. He basically learned to kayak in this boat and we'd get out on Lake Macintosh several times a week, as well as Lake Dillon. At this point, my son and I spent a lot of time together on the lakes, and he became comfortable on and underwater, and never really pushed him into boating.

In late September, I picked up a used Perception Method small dirt cheap for my son. I got him on the water at Lyons whitewater park without the skirt while teh flow was at 50 cfs, just good enough for kids. He had a blast and wanted to do laps. Then, I introduced the skirt a few runs later. No problem, and no water in the boat.

Now that fall is rolling into the equation, Team River Runner in Fort Collins started pool sessions. I needed my roll, as did my son. He got his the first night, and I struggled for several weeks. At the recommendation of others, I picked up a used kids Jackson Sidekick with bags and a kids PFD from Confluence Kayaks. A better fitting boat made a world of difference in developing his skill sets. We were hitting pool sessions 2-3 times a week, and tried to keep it fun. In Januaryish, I picked up a used kids Jackson Shooting Star. His skill sets dramatically improved because it was just soo much more fun, because it was more a playboat. I also had him use goggles during the pool sessions...made a huge difference. Again, the fun factor. I also spent a few well spent dollars with a good dry top, neoprene pants, poggies, etc...During teh warmer winter days, we hit the local whitewater parks that were ice free. He had a blast, and did his first creek roll in February. Sure, it was chilly, but he stayed warm, dry, and felt CONFIDENT on moving water.

With all this said, I tried to keep his experiences fun, evolving, very social, and positive. I never tried to pressure Bryce to kayak, just a little back door pressure to learn his roll. I also spent a little money outfitting him with the correct gear ensuring positive experience. Cold, wet, grumpy kids who can't handle their boat are no fun, and they would likely end up playing video games. I also kept it a learning experience for teh both of us, as a father & son thing. My wife loves open water swimming, so there is another level of family engagement. I recently took a swift water rescue course since we both spend a lot of time on the water together and with others. Now that he has a dry suit, he'll jump into teh creek with his gear and run the rapids / features as a swimmer...soo much fun being a kid, and learning how to safely swim.

I hope this helps give you one example of how one family does it. We're out on the water 2 to 3 times per week as family and with friends. Just keep it fun and safe. Here is a link to my YouTube Channel with videos of my sons progression through this past weekend.

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Old 05-14-2018   #3
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Northern Utah, Utah
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 685
Here's my feedback based on experience with my own kids.

1. Get both an IK and hardshell

2. Get a single IK for him to start using right away. The Tributary Spud ($399) if he's not too big/tall, or the single Tomcat ($649) or a similar used kayak. He'll be able to maneuver either much better than a Tandem IK.

3. Get a hardshell kayak for him as well, to start using in the pool, lake, or really easy runs where he's already confident in the IK. Lots of good choices out here used or new, just don't get one that's too big.

4. Get him involved paddling with other kids who paddle - this can often be the single biggest help - simply paddling with other kids.

5. As his confidence in being on the water and paddling the IK grows, that will hopefully translate to confidence in the hardshell. My 10 year old paddles class I/II in her hardshell no problem, but only started to get her roll down this winter. So last summer on some class III runs, she'd use an IK.

6. Reselling an IK and a kid kayak usually isn't too hard, and if you bought used to begin with you won't lose much if any money. As he ages he'll grow out of at least a couple kayaks.

7. My favorite choice of kayak skirt for kids is the Snap Dragon Youth River Trek Ez - is has a kick-strap, which kids who are starting out also use as an extra pull strap.
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Old 05-14-2018   #4
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 14
Thanks for sharing your experiences! I'm all about him having fun and feeling safe which is why I agree that paddling the IK while saving the hardshell for flat water is the best way to start.

There is a huge difference in price between the Tomcat/Outlaw and the Spud. I love the quality of our tandem Tomcat but not sure I want to spend that much on a single. How much better is the higher-end IK than the spud for adolescents and even a 120 lb woman. If that's as large of a person that will use it, is the Spud fine or is it really for kids only? Thanks!
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Old 05-14-2018   #5
Jackson, Wyoming
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 22
I've taught hundreds of kids his age to paddle in hard shells. Comfort upside down in the pool is a must before going on the river in a hardshell. Have him try to do the 'wet entry' where the boat is upside down, and he tries to get back into it. Then have him get in the boat, put a skirt on, and flip him over and back up super quick. After a few of those, have him hold his breath and have him tap when he wants to come back up and you flip him back. From there, moving into a wet exit is usually pretty easy.

As others have said, get a proper kids boat that fits so it is narrow with a low deck. I use Jackson Side Kicks, Fun 1 1/2s, and Remix 47s, all of which are great.

I just saw a spud recently, looks like an awesome boat and a great value for getting a kid on the water. A 120 lb woman would definitely be able to paddle it just fine.
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Old 05-14-2018   #6
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 14
Thanks! I ordered the Spud today so we'll start with that while I find him a hardshell boat.
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Old 05-15-2018   #7
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Northern Utah, Utah
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 685
I think that's a great choice. My kids all used the predecessor to the Spud, the Tomcat LV. The Spud is a shorter boat and that should help your son handle the boat more easily. One of my boys decided he no longer liked the IK when he realized it wasn't as easy to turn/control as the hardshell.

Another thought: when you start your son in the hardshell, he can always go without a spray skirt on the easier runs. Make sure he had practiced pulling the skirt many times in a pool or lake before he uses one on a river run. Even then, stay close to him until he's done an exit or two on the moving water. In my experience, kids tend to forget to pull the skirt more easily than adults.

Here's a picture of my son paddling Zoom Flume on the Arkansas River when he was 9. He fell out at the start of the rapid and was able to climb back in and keep going using the IK.
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Old 05-15-2018   #8
Vail, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 4
Call Forrest and Ben at Alpine Kayak School in Edwards and Rancho Del Rio on the upper C they teach kids and adults how to kayak and the do roll classes, etc they have taught hundreds of kids how to kayak 970-376-5333
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Old 05-15-2018   #9
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 14
Cool, he's already stoked for the Spud to arrive! I think the more fun he has in that, the more it will motivate him to want to go to the pool and start working on his roll. None of my paddling buddies have kids his age but our local club has a kids paddle planned for Father's day so hopefully we will meet some local families that paddle.
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Old 05-15-2018   #10
Join Date: May 2018
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I found a Fun 1.5 locally (I'm near Asheville btw) and was curious what the pros and cons are of a river runner vs a more playful boat for a kid starting out. I wouldn't advise a beginner adult to start in a play boat so is the Fun 1.5 going to be slightly unstable for a new kid or is it a good all around beginner boat? I don't own a play boat so I'm just wanting to make sure I get him something that will build his confidence as at his age, one bad experience (safe but still scary) could cause a major set back. Thanks!
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