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Teaching Children How to Paddle – Part 6

Tandem

By ‘tandem’ I mean two kids paddling 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 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 ‘canoing’ 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, the W it tracks better than a traditional canoe, 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.

Yoav

kids paddling in tandem Kids kayaking in tandem

Teaching Children How to Paddle – Part 5

The Surf

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 his 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.

Boy kayaking over a big wave

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.

Yoav

Kid paddling a fishing kayak in the surf Boy kayaking across a wave

John Forney’s First W Boat Design

John Forney is a boat designer and builder from Texas.

He has already designed and built a number of kayaks, both in wood and skin-on-frame.

John took upon himself to be the first to design and build a wooden W boat, and he did it.

This W is 12 feet long and 30 inches wide, and it can take two large size kayak fishermen with all their gear, as well as camping gear:

John Forney's 12 ft wooden W boatBennett Crow christening John’s W boat.  Photo: John Forney.

John says: “It’s a known thing that you build your first boat just to learn and then you throw it away, but this boat is just too good to throw – it’s amazing.”

John is now involved in building two more wooden W boats, and he plans to design and build W boats in other materials as well.

Yoav

Teaching Children How to Paddle – Part 4

Tracking.

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 Kayak 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…

Yoav

Kids paddling on the river

Teaching Children How to Paddle – Part 3

Steering.

Steering is the easier part in navigating the kayak, and the more difficult one is tracking.

Teaching your child to steer requires a bit of patience because a child’s motoric 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 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 paddler yourself.

Yoav

Kid paddling a W fishing kayak with his dad onboard