Kayaking is a great fun sport for the whole family, let alone the health benefits of low-impact core exercise and breathing in some fresh sea air. Taking your kids on a kayak trip can add a whole new dimension to your day at the beach or your holidays.
how to get started
Most major coastal locations around New Zealand have at least one reputable kayak hire/tour operator. This is definitely a good place to start to see if you and your children enjoy kayaking, before you invest in buying your own.
When I take the family out kayaking, I use a tandem sit-on-top kayak, as these are generally more suitable for children than a sit-inside version, because they can’t get caught inside the kayak if it overturns. Also, sometimes younger children don’t have the required strength to paddle on their own.
When choosing a kayak, make sure you go to a reputable kayak retailer. They have trained staff and will be able to give you all the advice you need. Look for a kayak that has storage because taking food and water, some towels and dry clothing for the kids is essential. A kayak trolley to transport your kayak from the car to the beach is useful.
do young kids cope?
Younger children love giving kayaking a go, however they usually lack arm strength so this is why I much prefer using a double kayak with kids. Kayaking is also a fun way to learn your lefts and rights while paddling. Short paddles from bay to bay are a good way to introduce your kids to kayaking, so they don’t get too tired and don’t lose attention or enthusiasm.
where can we kayak?
The Hauraki Gulf offers many islands and large estuaries to explore, and if you are wanting to turn your kayak trip into a holiday, Auckland Regional Council has some very affordable accommodation located in and around the regional parks within paddling distance.
Head to the South Island and you have a veritable playground for kayaking. Check out the Marlborough Sounds and the Abel Tasman. If you’re near Christchurch, there is great kayaking in the harbour and Akaroa.
kayaking in rivers
Slow moving rivers are suitable for most kayaks, however fast-moving and turbulent rivers require specialist kayaks and skills. Not suitable for children.
fishing from kayaks
This is so much fun and really quite safe. Although, like any water sport, common sense should prevail and life jackets must be worn at all times. Pick your weather well, and if possible, get some tuition first. Be realistic about kids’ skills, and don’t put them into a situation that might scare them or put them off.
Kayaking is great in winter as well, just wear warm gear (maybe a drysuit) and don’t take undue risks with the weather. Pack warm food in your daypack and extra layers
in case the weather turns bad.
- know the weather, tide times and currents
- always wear appropriate safety equipment, including a life jacket
- don’t overload the kayak
- paddle with someone else if going more than a short distance from shore
- Kayak trolley
- Dry bag (the bigger the better)
- Lifejackets (suitable for kayaking)
- Paddle leashes
By Rowan Lowry
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