Kayak fishing by yourself can be a pain, or a great joy, depending on which kayak you choose, and how you use it. Having children on board can be a problem and a hassle, or an even greater joy than being there by yourself, but again, it depends on which kayak you’re in, and how well you’re prepared to have a young, inexperienced, and unpredictable passenger on board. If you want to teach a small child how to paddle, you’d have to take them with you in your kayak, before they can start paddling on their own. bigger children can be taught kayaking without the presence of an adult on board.
Before anything else: Kids who go in fishing kayaks must always wear a suitable PFD (personal flotation device), and they need to know how to swim.
Generally, most children like to go on water. Whether it’s fishing, touring or playing in waves – they very much enjoy paddling, and as they grow up they tend to prefer to do it by themselves.
Small children starting at age five can be taught how to paddle a W fishing kayak solo and in tandem. The process requires time and patience but it’s fun both for the kids and their parents.
Obviously, before attempting to teach anyone how to paddle, you’d better be a reasonably good paddler yourself…
Being small and lightweight a child has no balance problem when in the W fishing kayak. This is an important fact since feeling at ease from the start facilitates learning.
However, it’s also important to remember that a child that young still has developed neither adults’ motor skills nor their sense of orientation. And obviously, such young children possess only a fraction of the physical power that we as adults have.
In recent years I’ve taught several children or various ages to paddle W fishing kayaks, and I’ve noticed that sooner or later children would raise from the W saddle and stand up, usually when they feel they need more power. This is understandable since when standing it’s easier for children to get power by applying their weight on the paddle through the use of their legs. If (actually when) this happens you shouldn’t discourage it – The child is not in danger of tipping the boat over, and he/she feels more empowered, which is good.
The first thing you need to teach your kid is to get into the kayak. It’s always good to remember that W kayak anglers don’t get their feet wet because we enter the cockpit from the back and exit it from the bow, unless we dock. In such case it doesn’t really matter how the child enters or exits the boat as long as he/she does it slowly and carefully.
In general, when teaching a child how to paddle you shouldn’t set your expectations too high: Some kids are fast learners and some are not. There’s no point in accelerating the pace, as it’s better for the student to enjoy the whole process.
There are two basic sets of skills that every paddler, including children, need to master. The first has to do with propulsion and control, and the second is navigation.
Propulsion and control include both getting the kayak to move forward and preventing it from tipping over. It’s easy to teach children to propel a W Kayak because they can focus just on it instead of diverting their attention to balancing, which can rather difficult in traditional kayaks. The W kayak is very stable yet only 25″ wide, which contributes to easy paddling and learning.
It’s easier for small kids to use a double blade (‘kayak style’) paddle when they paddle solo but it’s also easier for them to use single blade (‘canoe style’) paddles when paddling in tandem with another kid. This is because children’s coordination skills not well developed at an early age and they develop over the years. Practically, this means that having two inexperienced kids kayaking in tandem would inevitably cause their paddles to hit each other.
Generally, it’s advised to start on a pond or a small, shallow lake, and in pleasant weather. The presence of wind while they’re paddling without an adult on board might distract kids and confuse them.
You’d preferably take the child paddling with you several times before letting him or her try to do it alone.
Steering is the easier part in navigating a fishing kayak, and the more difficult one is tracking.
Teaching your child to steer requires a bit of patience because a child’s physical and cognitive capabilities are not fully developed.
The child may not understand the effect of moving the paddle in the water, and will certainly have a problem visualizing the blade’s position in it, and therefore its effect on changing the boat’s direction.
However, kids like to learn new things, and eventually they do that too.
You should try and observe the paddle’s position and see if the child is not applying a J stroke without knowing it – A J stroke is what canoeists use when they want to steer their canoes in the same direction as the side they’re paddling on.
Being small can actually be an advantage when it comes to steering a W fishing kayak since it makes it easy for the child to lean into the turn. Therefore, you can try and teach your child to do it at a very early stage, and it would prevent him/her from leaning to lean to the side on which the paddle is moving and by that involuntarily steer the boat in the wrong direction.
All this may sound complicated but it’s not if you’re a reasonably good W kayak paddler yourself.
This is a difficult thing to teach small children because their spatial perception is not well developed as ours.
They may not necessarily recognize an object such as a house or a tree after having seen it once, they may not yet have a good ability to distinguish between right and left or to remember a place they’ve already been to before.
There are more differences between a child’s mind and ours, but the bottom line is that tracking can be difficult for an adult to learn, and for a child it’s considerably harder.
In addition, a child’s attention span is more limited than ours, and therefore it’s harder for a child to concentrate on keeping the course.
Therefore, you need to lower your expectations and be even more patient.
The method that seems to work best in the beginning is to let the kids paddle their W fishing kayaks behind yours or behind another paddler that can track well. Because the boat in the front is close to him it’s easier for the kid to focus on it than finding a static point on shore to focus on.
Try as much as possible to conduct such lessons on flat and calm water, preferably without wind or current, and progress as slowly as your child needs to. This is really an example of ‘practice makes perfect’.
As usual with kids, a period of quick learning and great result can come after a long period without any visible results. That’s the way it goes, and expecting a steady pace of progress is unrealistic.
The W kayaks is a good tracker by nature, which is an advantage, but once it’s going in a new direction it wants to keep going there, which means that both you and your child need to pay attention and correct little deviations from the straight course immediately as they occur.
It helps to explain why tracking is important, and the argument that seems to do the job best with kids is that in the end going in a straight line is easier than going in zigzag…
The surf is a very exciting place for children but it can be a frightening one too. A child can perceive a small, three-foot wave as a threat, and a four-foot wave might take the proportions of a tsunami in their eyes.
This is quite understandable since compared to an adult a small child can exert a limited level of control over his kayak. Besides, children have a vivid imagination that can easily take things out of proportions.
This is why I would suggest limiting your child’s experience to 2-3 ft waves to begin with, and this is mainly because such waves can’t topple his/her W kayak even if it’s hit on the side.
Having said that, some kids really love it when their boat flips over, and they may even try to cause it to capsize on purpose.
As always, it’s highly recommended that you have substantial experience W surf kayaking before you start teaching your kids about it. In any case, staying close to them the first times is an absolute necessity. You should conduct these lessons in a shallow water beach with neither currents nor underwater rocks.
There are basically two main points to learn for a start:
One is to approach a coming wave at a straight angle (perpendicular) while riding the back part of the saddle, and the other is to lean into the wave in case it hits your boat on its side.
Later you can teach your kid to ride the middle part of the saddle when coming back to shore, and to control the boat with the paddle and by shifting his or her weight from side to side, but that’s more of a thing you need to practice together than a theory.
By ‘tandem’ I mean two kids paddling a fishing kayak together since a crew composed of an adult and a child is likely to work well without need for special instruction.
Having two adults paddling a W fishing kayak together can pause a balance problem, which a junior tandem doesn’t have to face, and that’s a good start. However, there are some serious difficulties that a junior crew has to deal with, including propulsion, steering and tracking.
Paddling in tandem requires that each of the two paddlers understand their different roles and act accordingly in order to allow for efficient synchronization of their movements and effective control over the boat, that is its speed and direction.
It’s not easy for adults and it’s really hard for kids. Therefore, it’s best to start after each of the kids had gained some experience as a solo W paddler.
The two basic tandem paddler roles are similar to what they are for adults:
In case both paddlers use kayak paddles the less experienced paddler rides the saddle’s front part and simply paddles left and right following a slow and steady rhythm. The more experienced paddlers rides the saddle’s back and tries to keep his paddle going in parallel to the front paddler’s paddle. The trick is to do it while using different strokes of various strengths in order to track, and skipping some strokes on one side while applying stronger strokes on the opposite side while turning. It’s not easy at all, and it requires that both crew members understand what needs to be done and focus on achieving it.
The rest is practice, practice and more practice…
The result is very rewarding for both kids and parents.
When tandem W ‘canoeing’ the boat needs to be paddled exactly as if it were a canoe, that is with each paddler paddling on a different side, and paddlers changing sides from time to time. Luckily, W fishing kayaks track better than traditional canoes, which facilitates the task.
It’s also possible to paddle in tandem with one canoe paddle and one kayak paddle, but since it’s more complicated I wouldn’t recommend it for kids.
Stand Up Paddling
This is in fact the easiest type of paddling for children.
It comes naturally to them because they feel very stable in the W fishing kayak, and standing upright offers them the ability to apply more power in their paddle strokes, and probably to better perceive the environment and their fishing kayak’s position in it.
The latter is important for navigation, especially when it comes to tracking, which is particularly difficult for small children. There may also be something in standing that facilitates kids’ spatial perception because it’s the position we humans naturally use for moving on land.
You will often see children who are paddling in the lower positions (sitting or riding) stand up when they feel they need more paddling power and control, such as when they’re taking part in a ‘naval battle’ game with other paddlers, or when they have to paddle upwind or counter current.
Because they are small, children can paddle standing even in tandem.
One of the main reasons children feel confident standing in their W fishing kayaks is because if they happen to lose balance they go back to riding the saddle in the mounted (riding) position, which is the stablest. This is also the reason why paddling and fishing standing in W fishing kayaks is a real option for adults too: If you happen to be standing in another type of kayak and you lose balance the only option left for you is to fall overboard.
This is a particularly enjoyable activity when done with children.
Kids feel both confident and excited in W fishing kayaks, and the boat’s cockpit offers enough space for you and a child to paddle in and fish from comfortably.
The best is to ride the saddle in the back and let the kid ride or stand up in the front. This way he or she can feel independent while turning back to you to talk or in case they need your assistance, which they often do – at least in the beginning.
Obviously, you need to be careful, especially when the children cast their lines since you might accidentally get injured by a fishing hook flying near your head.
For this reason it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the young, enthusiastic anglers at any time.
Older kids who are experienced enough with handling fishing tackle can go W kayak fishing in their own boat, providing there’s an adult nearby who can supervise them.
Taking Children On Board Motorized Fishing Kayaks
These days, an increasing number of fishing kayaks are motorized, either with electric trolling motors, or powerful outboard gas engines. The latter offer speed and excitement that neither paddling nor the weak and slow electric motors provide, and kids just love them. But needless to say, that with power and speed comes an added degree of risk, and you should be aware of it, as well as prepared to it. In other words, you should not take a kid with you on board a motorized fishing kayak unless you’ve gained enough experience with driving the kayak, and have become proficient with handling it at nay speed and in any situation, including waves. With the added weight comes added instability, and you should also be prepared for your young passenger doing things that would suddenly destabilize your kayak. You need to be able to react exactly in the appropriate manner, and never overreact, and this requires some practice.