Can children safely kayak in surf and rocks? Sure they can! If you answer yes to the questions below, then your kids are ready to begin a lifetime of adventure on the sea:
- Do your kids love and respect the sea?
- Can they can swim or at least tread water?
- Will you and other competent adults accompany kids in and on the water?
- Are your kids properly outfitted for kayaking in rougher conditions?
If your kids are highly motivated to get out in surf or rougher seas and comfortable in moving water that is over their heads, and you are right there with them, and they are wearing properly fitting helmets and PFDs and wetsuits, then go for it.
Start your kids out on flat water (ponds, for instance), and graduate to more difficult challenges as their desire, skills, and ability increases. Here’s a good path: pool to lake to river or bay—and then on to more challenging moving water.
Each time you take your kids out boating, ask them, “Do you kids want to do this?” Any kid who hesitates or says no should not go. When you take the eager beaver kids out on the water, end the kayaking excursion before they get really tired. In other words, don’t plan a one-day, 30-mile river trip through a gorge with kids. The last thing you want to do is end up paddling in the dark with whiny kids.
Also, never take kids on water that you do not feel 100% competent paddling in. And be sure that you are able to rescue your kids! In my book CONFESSIONS OF A WAVE WARRIOR, I tell a river canoeing tale where 4 kids (myself and 3 siblings) end up swimming in white water after a big capsize that never would have happened if my dad hadn’t taken a swift and narrow channel with a log across it. Luckily, my brother Marc and I were able to rescue our younger siblings while my dad saved the boat. What a scary adventure!
That terrible capsize in the river did not stop me from more canoeing, rafting and kayaking. Being a kid, I took it all in stride and continued on. My advice to parents is to give your kids an exciting but safe water adventure. The more competent and confident your kids get, the more they will cherish adventure kayaking. What do you think?