kayak paddling

Paddling is the easiest and most effective form of human powered propulsion for small and lightweight craft such as kayaks and canoes. In recent decades, paddling has become more popular than rowing, and dual-blade paddles (‘kayak’ paddles) have become more popular than single-blade (‘canoeing’) paddles.
Paddling offers a way for the kayaker to propel, control and steer their kayak using one, lightweight and easy to use tool, and this multiple functionality is highly appreciated, especially if the kayak lends itself to easy paddling, which most fishing kayaks don’t, unfortunately. Such kayaks are typically mono-hulled, large-size and heavy, and they track poorly, which is why most of them feature a rudder.
Wavewalk kayaks are easier to paddle since their users benefit from increased stability, the ability to optimally engage their legs substantially in both balancing and paddling efforts, and the advantage of rudderless steering and tracking through relocating the kayak’s center of gravity by simply moving its saddle (longitudinal seat).
In addition, W kayaks offer the average user easy stand up paddling in confidence, in real world conditions, which other kayak don’t.
Typically, paddling traditional (mono-hull) kayaks is done with the paddler sitting in the L position, which is non-ergonomic to a point that it has become associated to back pain. In contrast, paddling W kayak is typically done from a Riding posture similar to the powerful and comfortable position in which drivers of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), snowmobiles and jet-skis operate such high-performance vehicles.
W kayaks also offer their users the possibility to apply a broader range of paddle strokes, as well as to use their extra-long paddle for poling in shallow water, such as when launching or beaching, or when going over obstacles.

Teaching Children How to Paddle – Part 7

Standup Paddling

This is in fact the easiest type of paddling for children.
It comes naturally to them because they feel very stable in the W kayak, and standing upright offers them the ability to apply more power in their paddle strokes, and probably to better perceive the environment and their kayak’s position in it.
The latter is important for navigation, especially when it comes to tracking, which is particularly difficult for small children. There may also be something in standing that facilitates kids’ spatial perception because it’s the position we humans naturally use for moving on land.

You will often see children who are paddling in the lower positions (sitting or riding) stand up when they feel they need more paddling power and control, such as when they’re taking part in a ‘naval battle’ game with other paddlers, or when they have to paddle upwind or counter current.

Because they are small, children can paddle standing even in tandem.

One of the main reasons children feel confident standing in their W kayaks is because if they happen to lose balance they go back to riding the saddle in the mounted (riding) position, which is the stablest. This is also the reason why paddling and fishing standing in W kayaks is a real option for adults too: If you happen to be standing in another type of kayak and you lose balance the only option left for you is to fall overboard.

Yoav

two kids kayaking standing Kidas paddling in tandem satnding in their W kayak Children paddling standing in their kayaks Girl kayaking standing

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

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