Noyo Pacific Kayaking

A Resources for Beginers to Experts

Kayaking Kids
Kayaking - Begining Kayaking

Last year, over Fathers Day weekend, we towed a trailer with six kayaks and a canoe to McCloud Reservoir near Mt. Shasta, where my father lives part of the time. The idea had been to give 11 of my nieces and nephews (ages 5 to 20) and their parents the opportunity to try their hand at paddling. When it came time to go, I had serious reservations. Would someone get hurt? Would the kids fight over the boats? I was more than a little concerned about the possibility of being left with a mess to clean, pack and repair.

I discussed my concerns and plans with my wife. Nancy wisely declined to become directly involved in fleet operations but was willing to listen to my  ideas and concerns and offer suggestions. The first rule was that everyone (children and adults) would be required have their PFD on and properly adjusted before picking up a paddle or entering a boat. The parents (my brothers and sisters) and the older kids understood that it made it much easier if they set the example for the younger kids and wore their PFDs without complaint. The older kids in our family have been around boats enough so that they know this family policy. The youngsters quickly realized that wearing PFDs wasn't negotiable. It never came up as an issue.

We decided that the boats should be launched one at a time rather than having a disorganized free-for-all. We were not trying to make it to a destination; the plan was to just give everyone the opportunity paddle a boat, as long or as little as they felt inclined to do so. We would give the youngest kids first option on boats figuring that if they did go, they would not stay out as long as the older ones. Boats were to remain within sight of the launching area and were to return at the sound of a whistle or car horn.

Not surprisingly, the kayaking proposal received an enthusiastic response. I assumed my best Camp Counselor persona and gave a group orientation. It was a nice sunny day; the water was cool and refreshing but not too cold to swim in. There was hardly a breeze blowing. All of the kayaks were sit-on-tops so there was little worry about them sinking if they were capsized. The canoe, even with its built in flotation, presented the greatest risk of capsize but the kids had little interest in addling our bulky old canoe. The youngest of the group didn't want to go at first but indicated that they might try later. After about 20 minutes, all 7 boats were launched and everything looked to be going well. For the remainder of the afternoon, the kids and adults took turns with the kayaks.

When the youngest wanted to try, they had the choice of taking the front seat in the double kayak or using one of the singles. Before leaving shore, we gave only brief, basic instructions. Once in the water, they were allowed to experiment and given further direction on foreword and reverse strokes. When paddling a single kayak, they were first tethered to a length of cord. This way, we could pull them back to shore if they couldn't get the kayak back on their own. Once we were satisfied that they could paddle straight and turn when they wanted to, they were released to paddle un-tethered (near the launch area and accompanied by an adult.)

At the end of the day, I was pleased with how well it had gone. The biggest surprise was how easily the kids had taken to paddling. One 10 year old nephew was out nearly three hours, paddling alone most of the time. I asked my sister if he was ok. She answered quietly: "This is really his element." He doesn't enjoy school or competitive sports. This is his thing. When he came back, he proudly announced that he had caught and released four trout (and his fishy aroma left little doubt that he really had.)