Kids and Kayaks

By Nina Sabghir

You know you’ve done something right when your seven-year-old granddaughter comes home from school and, mystified, says to her mother, “None of my friends have a kayak”.

Lily had her first experience at Lake Sebago when she was four- or five-years-old. We went out on the banana boat, a big, long sit-on-top with a scoop out in the middle. Lily sat in the scoop out while her father and I paddled. She enjoyed being on board and trailing her hands and feet in the water.

At five she started camping at the lake. We borrowed a Wave sit-on-top and I towed Lily around. She loved it.

I kept my eyes open for a good deal and found a Wave set including a paddle at a local sporting goods store. It was Lily’s Hanukah gift that year. Amazingly, no one asked about that bright green kayak in the basement. Maybe they were afraid to or maybe my family is just used to the assortment of sports gear housed down there.

Lily launched her kayak that spring when the Sebago Canoe Club had a Family Day event at the club. We went out into the Bay with Lily safely connected by several feet of rope. She demonstrated her skill and stood up on her little craft.

Lily (now eight) has since made several trips to the lake and participated in scupper races as well as simply paddling around. Each time we go, I see her skill and confidence increase. We are able to go further before she asks for a tow. Last summer, I told her that when she’s nine she won’t need me to tow her. Power of suggestion? Lily has become observant of nature, spotting deer, frogs, and heron while out on the water.

This year, we introduced the younger siblings to the joy of kayaking. I took four-year-old Ayala and three-year-old Eitan out, tucked in the front of my cockpit (one at a time of course). The look of joy on their faces is hard to duplicate. Ayala was enchanted by the ducks. Eitan was thrilled with the ride until he saw his Mom at the swimming dock. His desperation to return to Mom required an off-loading maneuver. But never mind. The idea is for this to be a fun experience.

Later at the scupper race, Eitan plunked himself onto a Wave which was on the ACA dock and grabbed a paddle. He definitely has the right idea.

Safety is always important and a PFD is critical to achieving this. Fortunately, there are really comfortable PFDs to fit tiny passengers and young paddlers. If the PFD fits well, the child will feel good in it and be more willing to wear it. Of course, if the adults are wearing theirs then kids will see it as part of getting geared up to go out. Fit is not only important for comfort but for safety as well. If the PFD is too big there’s a risk that it will pull off the child if there was ever a capsize. PFDs for very small children include a crotch strap and floatation collar, both of which are important features.

If you have young children or grandchildren, get them out on the water. Lake Sebago is the perfect environment, with calmer water and easy places to pull ashore when youngsters need a break. Small excursions, with plenty of play time and food in between will keep kids kayaking.

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