Introducing Kids to Whitewater: Kayaking Kids

Raising kids who aren’t afraid of the water, but instead are drawn to it, was pretty much a natural thing for us. It wasn’t a goal or even a thought, it was just something that was going to happen regardless because we LOVE the water.  Dan & I cannot resist it … we love water!

Even before we became a kayaking family we were water people.  I swam my entire childhood, even through high school and then in college I played water polo…water is in my blood.  Dan grew up playing in lakes, rivers, creeks and of course a pool with a high dive.

But, regardless of whether we set out to raise river rats or not (we didn’t) we are the proud parents of 12 whitewater kids.  And how, how do we have a 100% track record? Read on for our 5 tips to ensure your kids love the water as much as you!!

Live At the Pool

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That’s right, spend a large portion of their super young years at the pool.  Don’t push them to swim laps or even to practice strokes, just let them play.  Seriously, by simply encouraging them to have fun and progress at their own speed you will be ensuring your little ones love of the water.

Be sure not to over think things and try not to ruin their fun with a lot of rules and warnings.  It’s your job to keep them safe, so don’t ever take your eyes off them, avoid those ridiculous inflatable wings and instead teach them to float on their own.  Remember that if you are having fun and smiling, they will as well.

Fun, Lazy River Trips

We started out tubing on the Colorado River soon after we moved out here and it was so much fun.  We just hit up a tire place and bought tubes for about $5 each.  One tube would be relegated for the cooler filled with drinks and snacks.

Rafting the Colorado River 2009!!
Rafting the Colorado River 2009!!

Soon after we bought an old (when I say old, I mean crazy old) 18 foot raft from Ohiopyle and had it shipped to us.  It needed to be inflated several times during each river trip, but it was incredibly fun.  We’d float down the river, jump and flip off the raft, the littlest kids would invariable fall asleep and there was never a trip where we didn’t end up in some huge water fight with other private rafts or even a commercial raft.  We were known as the Pirates of the Colorado because Dan would jump on the other rafts in a full on water assault!!

Just a huge amount of fun on the river and zero pressure involved.  In a few short weeks we are piling back in our raft and hitting the Ruby Horsethief stretch of the Colorado with friends xxfor a 3 day two night camping trip.  Every single one of us will get to enjoy this and I can’t wait to see how much fun Elly and Coby will have.

Jackson Duo

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Jeremy Adkins and his daughter, Rory! Photo Credit: Hydrenaline Kayaking

We don’t have one, but a day doesn’t go by where we don’t say, I wish we had a Jackson Duo (or two).  At this point every single one of us … 14 in all … could be running the calmer rivers.  In fact, anything Maddy and down could do, we could be doing with our youngest kids.

Sitting in the front of a Duo, cruising down the river, sipping on a drink, eating some beef jerky (our river food) or even actively paddling, a Duo is just the thing for anyone hoping to get their kids hooked on kayaking.  Just be sure you have a pretty solid paddler in the second seat.


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Photo Credit:

SUPing is a family affair, just like kayaking.  SUPing also usually means calmer waters and fewer hazards.  When we went SUPing with Shaine Ebrahimi and Mary Sundblom of Shaboomee, we were all in the water more than we were on the board, which actually was epic fun.  Dally was doing flips into the water and rescuing Rowdy when he swam out of his kayak, he and Max Haworth were playing chicken, I was trying to simply stand on moving water, Shaine was doing all sorts of amazing tricks (incidentally neither he nor Mary fell in once), Kady was blasting through big waves.  It was just so much fun.

Zero consequences and lots of falling truly makes for a great trip.  And a great trip always means a love of the river is being forged.  Be sure to start out on easier stretches of river.  SUPing is way harder than it looks and it’s also way more fun than it looks, but you definitely want to start slow and work your way up, especially when you are paddling with kids!!


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I’m just going to say it … kayaking changed our lives.  You probably know our story, and if you don’t, you can check it out on our website, but suffice it to say, we started kayaking in the summer of 2010, in the fall we started homeschooling, the following year the kids dropped all their extra-curricular sports (except snowboarding) and in 2012 we moved into an RV for an almost full-time traveling life!!

Starting kids out paddling is as easy as heading to your local community pool if they hold kayak sessions.  The pool was an invaluable resource for our kids because they could learn in a totally safe environment.  Paddle strokes, rolls, hand rolls, off-side rolls, you name it, they worked it.  They played chicken and even kayak polo!

Another great spot to learn is a local lake or reservoir.  Here you can teach yourself to paddle straight even in the elements.  Flipping over to practice a roll anywhere other than in clear water at a pool is surprisingly scary for some, for others not at all, which makes it more real than a pool roll.

When you are ready to get on the river, make it fun, make it easy, make it short.  We took our 6 year old daughter, Emmy, down the No Name Section of the Colorado.  It was about two miles of Class II whitewater.  She had fun, she had a ton of fun, but it was the perfect length!  She was ready to do something else at the end…you know, short attention span and all.

Read Kady Kellogg’s blog, “7 Steps to Get Started Kayaking” for everything kayaking!!

Kayaking is one of those things we will always have in common with our kids, it’s unlike most sports.  I mean, it’s a rare day when mom and dad and all your siblings go out for a family football game or hockey game … it’s an anyday thing to go kayak together.  I can’t imagine a more exhilarating thing to share with my family.  Having kayaking kids is keeping us young and challenged!  And, whether it’s a class II or a class V, it’s always fun!!  And fun is something we all have a huge passion for!!

Check out the video of little Emmy (6) kayaking down the Colorado River … she had a blast!!

2 thoughts on “Introducing Kids to Whitewater: Kayaking Kids”

  1. This seriously blows me away! Does your 6 year old know how to roll? I tried to learn in college and was always too freaked out to get it down, so therefore I’m terrified. I LOVE rafting – put me in an oar boat or a duckie and I’m good to go, but strap me in a skirt and I freak!! Maybe we need to come hang out with you guys and you can get me over my fear!!

    • Definitely let’s hang out!! Emmy cannot roll yet, but Dan or one of us sticks by her like glue and is there should she flip (she hasn’t flipped yet)!! 🙂


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