Kayaking is an amazing family activity. Not only does it bring us closer to nature, but it also brings us closer to our prehistoric roots as human beings. In fact, the first kayak is thought to have been used in 9,500 BCE. The Kayak as we know it was first developed by Inuit tribes by stretching seal skin over a framework of driftwood or whalebone.
As you can see, Kayaking can be an amazing lesson in the history of human beings and our connective nature. It is important to teach the entire family about how innovation and handiwork helped get us to the technologies we take for granted today.
However, this can be hard to do if kayaks are not available for those under 18. After all, you want to be able to take the kids to experience kayaking for themselves, not just tell them about it and show them pictures on the internet.
Do You Have To Be 18 To Go Kayaking? (Renting Kayaks)
While you do need to be 18 to rent a single-person kayak, those under 18 can accompany an adult in-tandem on a rented kayak. For purchased kayaks, whether or not a child can man a kayak by themselves is determined by state boating laws and the length of the kayak. In some states, those under 18 may be able to obtain a boating license in order to man a kayak alone.
While your children may not be able to go in a kayak by themselves according to the laws in your area, even if you are keeping a close eye on them, luckily in every state children can kayak with a legal guardian, even if the kayak is rented.
Many places will even allow a child to man a rented kayak by themselves, provided they are over the age of 3.
If you want to know more information about kayaking under 18 years of age, including requirements, restrictions, and legalities, keep on reading. This article has all the information you need so that you are not blind-sided on your next family vacation.
Renting Kayaks Under 18
So, while this is getting into semantics a bit, anyone under 18 will likely not be able to rent a kayak for themselves due to liability issues. However, that does not mean that a legal guardian cannot rent one for them.
Depending on the rental company and the area you are in, you may not even have to accompany your under-18 child on their kayaking adventure, especially if they are in their teenage years.
However, if you are a parent to a child under 18, be prepared to sign the legal waiver for your child. If your children are younger than 11 and even older in some places, you will have to accompany them.
Usually, you will have to paddle tandem with your younger child. Although, in some areas, particularly those with calm waters, your pre-teen or older elementary-aged child may be able to take their own little kayak out alongside you.
Legal Requirements for Kayaking Under 18
While the legal requirements for each state in the USA are going to vary, here is a basic list of what you can expect your state’s laws to look like.
It is important that you look up the laws for not only the state you will be kayaking in but also to consider which body of water you will be in.
Remember: if you will be off-shore in the ocean, the laws you may be dealing with will be federal and mandated by the Coast Guard, not the state in which you reside or are visiting.
Basic Kayaking Laws For Paddlers Under 18:
- USCG approved personal flotation device being worn at all times
- Whistle or another sound-producing device onboard
- Navigational light such as a waterproof flashlight onboard
- Distress signals onboard such as aerial flares
- If there is a trolling motor, a registration card must be onboard
- If powered by sail and over 14 feet in length, a registration card must be onboard
- Toddlers must be able to sit still
- Toddlers must be able to float on the water by themselves
- Toddlers must weigh at least 18 pounds
Planning a Kayaking Trip With Kids
Now you know how to rent a kayak for those under the age of 18, as well as the safety gear and considerations you need if your under-18 year old is going to go out kayaking on their own in one you have purchased for them. If you are frightened, don’t be.
Allowing your kids the freedom to build personal responsibility for themselves in the great outdoors will serve them well in life once they do have to go out on their own in life. You are doing great, just by reading this article!
Parenting is hard, there are no “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts” about it. For that reason, we have compiled some tips and tricks to make your family’s kayaking adventure with children much easier and stress-free, whether you are renting or buying your kayaks.
Where to Go Kayaking
For the first five kayaking trips with your children, you should aim to go to areas with calmer waters. Your children will get easily overwhelmed if you are paddling against a strong current or dealing with choppy waves.
You don’t want to put a negative taste in your children’s mouth when they are just learning the basics, as they won’t want to continue to go kayaking.
A nice static lake or a slow-moving portion of a river without any obstacles are great places to take your kids kayaking for the first time. If you are worried that they will get lazy and complacent, don’t be.
Kids love a good challenge once they feel comfortable they have the basics, so you will be able to up the ante in no time.
While you start to adventure out to more technical waters, always make sure you are going to an environment where you will be able to paddle alone to get to shore in case of an emergency.
Something may happen where you will not be able to rely on your kids to help you paddle to safety.
What to Pack
What would have been a great vacation can quickly turn into a terrible one if you don’t have the right supplies and gear.
As a parent, you know this all too well. Even a trip to the grocery store could become disastrous if you forgot the diaper bag. Never fear, we have a list of everything you need to bring to your family’s kayaking trip.
- PFD for Each Child
- Make sure that your PFDs are Coast Guard approved
- PFD for Yourself
- Why? Well, if the worst happens and you capsize, your kid can easily push you under and drown you if they panic. They won’t be able to do this if you have a lifejacket on
- Sun Protection
- High-quality water-resistant sunscreen
- UV-resistant long-sleeve shirts for everyone
- UV-resistant hats for everyone
- Sunglasses for everyone
- Aloe Vera Gel for after
- A waterproof camera such as a GoPro
- Inflatable toys when you’re taking a break
- Food and Drink
- Plenty of bottled water
- Juice boxes for energy
- Sealed snack packs like cheez-its in case your gear takes a dunk
What Kayak to Buy/Rent
For children under seven, a tandem kayak is going to be your best bet. There are many options where two adults can stick a small child in between themselves, as well. These are a great bet for young families.
Children are likely to get very tired while paddling, especially on their first few excursions, so a tandem kayak is best to get them used to the idea.
When purchasing their first single-person kayak, we recommend getting an inflatable option. If the worst happens during your outing and your child simply gives up, you will be able to deflate the kayak, stow it on yours, and fit them in your kayak.
Remember, this is why it is important to shoot for 70% weight capacity on your kayak. If the worst happens and you need to add another child and a deflated kayak to your load just to get home, you won’t have a problem doing that if you’ve only hit 70% of your weight capacity.
If you are closer to 100%, this is going to be very difficult to do without taking on a lot of water, something you’re definitely going to want to avoid if you have a young child sitting in the bottom of the kayak.
Like anything in life, it is best to be prepared for the worst possible scenario so you can have the best possible time. If you are worried about letting your teenager kayak alone, don’t be.
Plenty of kids in many states have boating licenses and take motorized vessels such as jet skis out on the water, and even the open ocean, by themselves.
While we hate to admit it, it won’t be long until our children are off on their own to make their own decisions in this world. The best way to properly prepare them for their future is to allow them to adventure on their own while being monitored. That way if they make a mistake, you’ll be there to back them up.
Just remember to include them in all the safety preparations, that way they have a shining example of what it takes to be a prepared adult in an often chaotic world.