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Discussion Starter #1
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?

Thanks!
 

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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.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBzZSRfVaU15YvElLz0GGvg?view_as=subscriber
 

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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. https://coloradokayak.com/collections/spray-skirts/products/snap-dragon-youth-river-trek-ez-skirt
 

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Discussion Starter #4
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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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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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks! I ordered the Spud today so we'll start with that while I find him a hardshell boat.
 

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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #10
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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The Fun 1.5 is the greatest kids kayak of all time. Very stable, even though it is a playboat. Since it is small it is easy to maneuver and comfortable to paddle.
 

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Dejan,

I highly recommend the 1.5 fun. Started both of my boys in 1.5 funs. Taught em to roll on both sides and had a lot of fun (no pun intended). There is a lot of good advice from previous posters. The most important is teaching your son how to be safe and have fun doing it.
 

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1. Keep it simple, keep it fun.

2. I agree with the others' suggestions to run an IK on Class II and a hardshell on Class I/flatwater.

3. I started my girls at age 7 and 9, they both had rolls...then had scares on Class II and quit for 5 years. My oldest is now 16, and wants to start again. Refer to Rule 1.

4. I help teach local kids to whitewater kayak. Better to teach kids who aren't your own, and better to have someone else teach your kids. Also agree on the Fun 1.5, Remix 47, Jackson Sidekick, oh, and the Fuse is also a good small kids boat...and the Shooting Star.

5. Get them in rafts. Show them to read the river with zero personal consequences. While my oldest is still leery of kayaking Class II, she loves running Class III-IV with me. My youngest is getting back into rafting Class III.

6. Refer to Rule 1.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks everyone for the advice. We have some really good class I/II rivers here with long run outs below the IIs or easy portages so we'll take it slow in the Spud and then eventually the hardshell when he's ready. He's already very comfortable on II/IIIs in our tandem IK but that's when I'm driving so he hasn't quite learned how powerful the water can be. If some of you that have trained your kids or those who've taught many other kids wouldn't mind, I'd love to hear some of the experiences that scared the kids and what could have been avoided. I've taught him skiing, surfing, snowboarding, MTB and climbing so I have a fairly good idea of his capabilities and what could spook him. We'll definitely be working on drills this summer to get him comfortable jumping out of the tandem and floating thru rapids so that he is comfortable and understands entrapment hazards before he is ever in a position to flip in a hardshell.

Hearing some, "I really wished I hadn't done.......with the kid because it set them back" would be helpful in avoiding the say mistake. Thanks!
 

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Understand that every kid is different, so what didn't work for my kids might work for yours..and vice versa! The kids who are slaying it as teenagers (Dane Jackson) obviously got pushed as young children, but also acknowledge they went through the baby steps 5-6 days a week rather than 2-3 weekends a month.

My girls were/are very competent swimmers. They were swimming at ages 4/6, freediving in the deep end of the pool at 5/7, rolling in the pool at 6/8 and swimming Class II rapids at the same age. They wakeboard, waterski, tube, snorkel, and hookah dive. I thought they were ready...but I was wrong.

I sort of think that whitewater is sensory overload for kids. Part of what makes it a wonderful sensory experience for us is too much for them. That fear voice in the back of your mind when in a hardshell that we are able to ignore/put aside as an adult is screaming front and center in a kid's brain.

Younger daughter made two short runs on Class II. She had a flip on a green wave train, tried to roll 4x, but ended up trying to roll upwave each time, and finally bailed. Came up and was holding her boat and her paddle. Buddy of mine rescued her and she had to let go of her paddle to hold his boat. Never saw her paddle again. She was sad.

Then she had a nice run on the first rapid on an easy Class II. There was one rock on lower river left she had to avoid. I told her to run the wavetrain and move right toward the bottom. She did exactly that and got to the bottom with tears running down her face. We strapped her kayak on my buddy's cat and she never ran a hardshell again.

Older daughter was doing an easy Class I+ and we were paddling past one bridge. I explained that we want to give the abutments a wide berth. She was ferrying to avoid the abutment and tripped over her paddle blade, flipping her. I was 4' away and "hand of god" rescued her as we passed the abutment. She panicked. She didn't hardshell again. Hindsight when we watched the GoPro video last week, she said, "Wow, it really wasn't that scary, Dad!"

I really don't even know now if I should have pushed both of them to "get back on the horse" and try it again, or if that would have caused them even more fear. I really did not want to scare them worse and have them completely foreswear rivers.

I really like and respect your idea of "We'll definitely be working on drills this summer to get him comfortable jumping out of the tandem and floating thru rapids so that he is comfortable and understands entrapment hazards before he is ever in a position to flip in a hardshell."

So yeah, all kids are different, but I hope my story helps somehow!
 

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Great feedback, nice to hear others' experiences. Here's some more:

The previous poster's experienced reminded me of how my boys loved to float/swim rapids in their life jackets when they were younger, yet they would get all nervous thinking about kayaking rapids because they might not be able to roll. I'd ask them what the worst that could happen would be, to which they'd respond "a swim". In their minds, swimming out of a kayak was totally different than simply floating/swimming a rapid. It took a really long time (many trips) before I could convince them othewise.

The way kids express fear and concern can vary widely from one to another, and it can be in ways not understood by an adult. My youngest boy had a bad experience on a run when he was young (around 7) and for several years after, he'd get real nervous and worried anytime we ran a river. Thing was, the way he expressed it was by being bottled up and quiet on the drive there, then when getting dressed and ready to launch he'd start acting out by being loud, disrespectful, mouthy, picking fights with his siblings, argumentative, and more. It took me way too long to realize that was his way of dealing with being scared/nervous, yet never admitting he was scared.
 

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In their minds, swimming out of a kayak was totally different than simply floating/swimming a rapid. It took a really long time (many trips) before I could convince them othewise.

The way kids express fear and concern can vary widely from one to another, and it can be in ways not understood by an adult. .... It took me way too long to realize that was his way of dealing with being scared/nervous, yet never admitting he was scared.
Thanks FatmanZ for the great thoughts. Makes me reflect even more.

I think we take our adult confidence/experience very much for granted. Kids don't have an excess of either.

I also coach youth sports, and I think I we take for granted that it's reasonably easy to coach many sports because kids have enough background knowledge (like running) and we're just teaching them to catch, throw, hit, or kick a ball.
Hockey has been more interesting since they also have to learn how to skate while paying attention to the puck and the play.

I'm helping instruct a local youth whitewater kayaking program--some of the instructors are parents, some aren't. I think this would be a really good conversation to discuss with the other instructors over some frosty adult beverages.

Edit: in a past life, I was an ACA sea kayaking instructor, and our instructor trainers were both heavy into the psychology of coaching and instruction. In coaching AAU youth volleyball, I also got some good positive coaching instruction...and USA Hockey has a huge focus on how and what kids learn at different ages (Long Term Athlete Development and the American Development Model which have been copied by many other Olympic sport national governing bodies). My day job is in construction management, so this is all very different from my left-brained academic background and I find "sports psychology" discussions to be fascinating to explore. I don't profess to know everything, but I know enough to want to take in everything I hear from others and try to assimilate it all.
 

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I'm not sure it's fair to say that kids have harder time confronting their fear. I see lots of adults stop kayaking, or at least hardshell kayaking for the same reasons. Rolling just instills a lot of fear in people and you never know who will over come it. On the other hand, most people seem to be ok in an IK.
 

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Understand that every kid is different, so what didn't work for my kids might work for yours..and vice versa! The kids who are slaying it as teenagers (Dane Jackson) obviously got pushed as young children, but also acknowledge they went through the baby steps 5-6 days a week rather than 2-3 weekends a month.
!
Umm... No. Dane wasn't pushed at all. He was exposed to boating at a very early age but he came up at his pace. Yes, he had the best possible coaching very early but I know that family well and was around Dane starting when he was 5ish and he paddled for the love of it with his parents being very spacious about not pushing him.

My son and I learned to boat together when he was 12. We spent the first summer with him in the bow of a tandem canoe which was a great way for him to learn to read water. We shared the passion for the adventure and both got kayaks that fall. We paddled with a club our first 2 years. I never, ever pushed him. He went on to medal at the freestyle Worlds, the freestyle World Cup and was World Squirt boat champion. My observation, after being around the competitive side of the sport for 15ish years and the general boating community for longer, is that pushing anyone, child or adult, is the fastest way to turn them off to the sport. Give kids good exposure, keep it fun and listen to them. My daughter could hand roll from both sides at 9 and was a natural on the Rio but didn't feel the passion for it. No problem. She pursued, with her parent's support, her own passions.

It's a beautiful sport to share with your kids. Don't be in a hurry. Listen to them. It's ultimately about adventure and fun.
 

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Umm... No. Dane wasn't pushed at all. He was exposed to boating at a very early age but he came up at his pace. Yes, he had the best possible coaching very early but I know that family well and was around Dane starting when he was 5ish and he paddled for the love of it with his parents being very spacious about not pushing him.

Thank you Phil. I should not have assumed that about the Jacksons.


I should/could have used the example of Tiger Woods who was pushed hard by his father from age 4. Brad Ludden was also pushed (not as hard as Tiger)..incidentally, I do know the Luddens.



Read 'Talent is Overrated' by Geoffrey Colvin. Interesting discussion that what we see is "talent" really isn't in our DNA. It's the '10,000-hour rule', and passion, and the ability to keep pushing forward and working out the small details when others would long ago have gotten bored.



My observation, after being around the competitive side of the sport for 15ish years and the general boating community for longer, is that pushing anyone, child or adult, is the fastest way to turn them off to the sport. Give kids good exposure, keep it fun and listen to them.

It's a beautiful sport to share with your kids. Don't be in a hurry. Listen to them. It's ultimately about adventure and fun.
Very, very, very well-said. Thank you.
 
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