Finding the right kayak for your child can be a challenging endeavor. One option is to stick them in an adult-sized kayak. This may be ill-advised for smaller children as often times an adult-sized kayak is just too much boat to handle. Smaller children will find themselves “swimming” inside the overly-voluminous cockpit leading to an awkward and inefficient paddling stroke. It won’t be long before they will tire out and start begging to be towed back to shore!
Another option is to investigate the myriad of “toy” kayaks on the market that provide the proper fit for a season or two before that inevitable growth spurt kicks into high gear. Aside from being quickly outgrown, these small kayaks offer little in the way of performance and features for your child’s paddling skills to grow on. Their short relative length inhibits tracking and the standard outfitting packages of these kayaks often leave out key features like thigh braces thus preventing the development of a solid lean and bracing skills.
Don’t be discouraged because there are some worth-while, kids-sized kayaks on the market. Here are some of the best old and new models:
Wilderness Systems Piccolo (Discontinued)
Material: Roto-molded Polyethylene
Cockpit Size: 31 x 15 inches
MSRP: $300-$500 Used
When I dip into my mental rolodex of “boats of yore” one particular model jumps to the front of the class: the Wilderness Systems Piccolo. At 13ft 6in long and 20.5in wide this kid’s sea kayak sits firmly in the light touring class and boasts all of the key features of a standard sea kayak including: integrated thigh braces, fore and aft bungees, and a small “day hatch”. The real beauty of the Piccolo is in its appropriately down-sized volume which provides the perfect fit for a pre-teen while maintaining desired performance. The Piccolo tracks as well as most light touring class boats and offers great primary and secondary stability. The great features and handling characteristics of the Piccolo will provide the opportunity for your child to grow as a paddler.
Unfortunately, Wilderness Systems discontinued production of the Piccolo some time ago (Why must all great things come to an end??) but they do come up used for sale quite often. If you’re in the market for a kid’s sea kayak then you’d be smart to gobble up a used Piccolo if one becomes available in your area. A reasonable price would be somewhere in the $300-$500 range.
Full Review: Wilderness Systems Piccolo
Alternative: Wilderness Systems Tsunami SP
Perception Prodigy XS
Material: Roto-molded Polyethylene
Weight: 27 lbs
Cockpit Size: 28 x 18 inches
Capacity: 150 lbs
Perception recently introduced the kids-specific Prodigy XS into its line-up. This kids kayak is substantially equivalent to the now discontinued Perception Acadia Scout but with a few outfitting upgrades. Like the Acadia Scout, the Prodigy XS sports compact hull dimensions and a lowered deck to allow for a comfortable paddling stroke. I’ve managed to squeeze myself into the cockpit and found that this kayak performs like a sports car with quick acceleration and decent tracking. Major upgrades can be seen in the cockpit outfitting with the addition of Zone seat pad, back band, and thigh pads. At $400, the Prodigy XS is definitely something to check out or maybe consider looking for a used Acadia Scout to save some coin!
Alternative: Perception Acadia Scout (Discontinued)
Old Town Heron Jr
Material: Single Layer Polyethylene
Weight: 29 lbs
Cockpit Size: 35 x 16.25 inches
Capacity: 100-115 lbs
The Heron Jr got some attention at the 2012 Outdoor Retailer show for good reason. This miniature version of the Old Town Heron was designed from bow to stern with the youngest kayakers in mind! Its short length (7’5”), reasonable width (25”), and light weight (29lbs) should prove manageable. One feature that really jumps out is the “Tag Along” tow system which will come in handy to rescue tired arms! This system consists of a towline that stowes neatly into a dedicated compartment on the front deck. Otherwise the Heron Jr is pretty bare bones with a simple, padded seat and a pair of carry handles. Finally, the ultra-low $300 MSRP should put a smile on a parent’s face especially considering that the Heron Jr will be eventually be outgrown!
Note: This post was originally written by Kayak Dave for Kayaking.org.