Kayaks for kids are tough. On one hand, kids have great balance and are naturally athletic, and they take to kayaks like ducks. So there's no reason to put them in a kayak that's tubby or not sized right for them. They want a kayak that's just as good as mom's and dad's, thanks! On the other hand, kids grow like weeds, and we've watched them outgrow a homebuilt kayak before it even got finished and launched!
So a good kid's kayak must have three things: Excellent performance (so they don't get bored), a wide range of capacity (enough to absorb several big growth spurts), and fast and easy construction (so they can finish the project before they're applying to colleges).
Difficult kayak design briefs are Eric Schade's specialty, so he got the call. He's swung several out of the park with the Shearwater and Wood Duck range. For little people he has adapted the madly popular Wood Duck series and created the Wood Duckling.
The Wood Duckling's small size gives up nothing in sophistication or good looks. We considered making the kayak a few inches shorter than 8 feet so that it could be cut from a single sheet of plywood, but nope: that would make it too tubby. Obviously this isn't a kayak for sprinting, but the Wood Duckling will coast alongside Mom and Dad with little effort. It's got plenty of stability and the dry, water-shedding deck will keep them paddling well into the Fall (like our cheerful Maine models in the photos). Just like the grown-up kayaks, there is a proper watertight storage hatch to hide a change of clothes, snacks, action figures, beach toys, or even their fair share of overnight gear.
The Wood Duckling will handle kids from 35 to 100 pounds. We tested the boat to 220lbs, at which point the deck was awash but the little boat was still stable and afloat (if not ideal!). 100lbs will still work for some high school freshmen so we're confident you'll get a lot of growing room out of your Duckling! The kit packages are small enough to ship through UPS, which is handy for everyone and keeps the cost down.
At only 22 pounds completed and rigged, this is a kayak that the little ones can manage on the beach, too! It'll fit inside the larger minivans, with the bow just poking between the front seats.
Construction is identical to the larger Wood Ducks. With Mom's and Dad's help, your junior boatbuilder will assemble the panels using computer-cut "puzzle joints" in the kit. The computer has already drilled the holes for all of the copper wire "stitches" that hold the hull panels together temporarily. You'll "tack weld" the hull parts together with epoxy, then remove the wires. Epoxy fillets and layers of fiberglass fabric inside and out give you a very tough Duckling. You can---and at some point probably WILL---drop the boat on pavement without doing any harm. A final finish of varnish brings up a lovely deep gloss on the okoume hull. Most Duckling builders will probably opt for the deep-reddish hue of the optional sapele deck.
The best part: this is the quickest kit in our catalog to build. Set aside about 50 hours on average to do a creditable job of it. This is a perfect first-time boatbuilding project for kids or their kid-at-heart folks.
Build this boat if:
- You need a fun, inexpensive kayak for kids
- You need a kayak that's fast enough to keep kids happy.
- You need a kid's kayak that's quick and easy to build.
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