image002Kids & Kayaking – A Quick History & Do’s and Do not’s, by Henry “H-Bomb” Hyde.

A lot of paddling parents want to get their kids into paddle sports, and even some non-paddling parents too. Eight years ago, this was a pretty tough thing to do as there were not many options out there for kids when it came to equipment. Putting a 4 year old in a ‘Dancer’ was simply not good for the overall experience. Along came Eric Jackson with the first real kid-sized kayaks with his creation of the Fun series and more importantly, the Fun-1. The flipside to having that boat was that we “kids” had to wait for the rest of the industry to catch up to EJ and his kid madness. Let’s fast forward to today. We have kid sized boats from not only Jackson Kayak, but several other manufacturers too. We have spray skirts that fit, PFDs to match, helmets, etc. All of it now!

image004The last few years have also seen changes in how kayaking and canoeing is taught. You see, we kids learn differently than adults. We’re kinetic learners, which mean we learn by doing and almost all kids learn that way. That is something for you parents out there reading this, you need to really grasp that. It took my dad a summer of paddling or so to really allow that to sink into his brain. But when it did, it made all of the difference in how he taught, to how I progressed as a paddler. Doing and repetition is the key to success for kids. When you combine that with making it a fun activity and introducing variations to what you are trying to get across to your kids, you will succeed in ways beyond what you can imagine.

image006My dad made learning to roll a fun activity. We used dive goggles and swim goggles and pool toys. He made games of flipping over and counting objects on the bottom of the pool and holding your breath. We made bets with each other on how fast we could wet exit or how far we could paddle upside-down. When it came to learning on the river, we did it in small sections at a time and worked the same problems over and over and in different ways. Rocks, pour overs, eddies, fast water, slow water, holes, all of it. Most of the time, little was said between my dad and I. I watched what he did and tried to do what he did (except swimming – and I liked watching my dad do something silly and swim!).

There is a time to push your kids and a time not to push your kids. Every kid is different and every kid has their own fears of things in the river. Some of them seem silly; some of them are not so silly. I used to be afraid of exposed rocks but not afraid of pour overs. I was afraid of little holes but not big holes. Which does not make sense at all? That is something to think about!

Another activity which helped me feel more comfortable in the water was rescue drills. Swimming through the rapids and holes and learning to catch a throw bag line. Wet exiting in a hole and learning to keep ahold of my paddle and using it for self-rescue as a tool. Deliberately letting myself get pinned upside down, and learning how & when to get out of the boat. It was fun and challenging, plus what a great way to cool off in the summer!

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Some really basic rules and guidelines to follow are:

  • Never push them too hard.
  • They will learn to roll when they are ready and it clicks in their head.
  • Always make every boating activity fun, be it on the river or in a pool or lake.
  • Never limit them to one type of boating once they get going.
  • Teach them by showing. Let them practice at their own pace. If you’re having fun, most likely they will have fun.
  • If you can, have other kids their age or close to it around them. Peer mentoring is important. Kids are competitive with each other.
  • If you’re in cold water, make sure they have the right gear. If they’re cold and miserable, they’re not going to have fun (remember: FUN = Mucho important word)
  • At some point, introduce them to competitive kayaking in at least two disciplines. Slalom and Freestyle will teach them mad skills and not only make them better boaters, but safer boaters who make good decisions.
  • Always tell them how good they’re doing, they’ll ask or tell you when they’re making mistakes.
  • Do silly things when you’re out on the river, like maybe have an accidental-on-purpose swim yourself (you get to ask them what they think you did wrong, get my point?)
  • About me

    My name is Henry Hyde. I am 11, almost 12 years old. I started paddling a Jackson Fun-1 when I was three years old. I started running rivers with my dad and his friends when I was 4. I started competing when I was six years old. For the last four years, I have been the top-ranked Cadet in whitewater slalom K1. I am currently members of the USA Canoe/Kayak Cadet National Slalom Team in K1 & C1 and the USA Freestyle Kayak Cadet National Team in K1. I guess you could say, I love to paddle.

    SYOTR,
    h-bomb (for Playak)

    Discuss this article
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    Posted: 1 year, 9 months ago by clancyd@indigo.ie #32522
    Great Article - jack (12) ,my son and I are reading this while he looks for the next step in kayaking for him which he believes is play boating (more like the first step really as neither of us are playboaters - more like river runners at intermediate level and are part off a local club)

    Recommendations for a 45kg young paddlers looking for a boat would be welcome (with some roam or expansion)!! We are thinking of a pyranha Molan or a dagger g- force but not really having a clue!

    Suggestions welcome and we both agree that the advice about kids learning is spot on - he is going to force me into a play boat as well!,,
    Posted: 1 year, 10 months ago by stumcgoo #32480
    great piece of writing, so true. keeping it fun really works. if you cant smile and laugh on the water then why do it.
    Posted: 1 year, 11 months ago by T-Rizzle #32415
    Yeah H-BOMB....kill it and grill it!