When the water warms up and our local Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers are low, I switch gears to my son’s interest in kayaking. Yes, he grew up watching his mom and dad around rivers so he talks about boating constantly.
Our boy Finn loves getting out on the river and I want to help him do that safely. My first goal: providing a positive experience. For that, we narrow the list to a few different Class I-II sections we’re familiar with, check flows, look at temperatures, and make a plan. We make sure he is layered appropriately, has a tight-fitting kid lifejacket, and a helmet that fits. Our team is solid — Finn looks to his mom as our safety boater/support team and distributor of snacks.
I’ve boated Class IV-V for a long time and am extremely careful about where I take my child. After teaching kayaking for 20 years I feel comfortable with my rescue skills but am still cautious.
I dreamed of padding out an existing boat I could pick up cheap, like a Dynamic or Topo Duo. But they’re hard to find, heavy, long and hard to move. So my interest piqued when I heard about Corran Addison’s new Soul Waterman tandem kayak — or more like a one-and-a-halfer, perfect for Finn and his father. A lot of thought and detail went into this design; it’s built from the ground up as a comfortable platform for a small child to sit in and is fun for an adult to paddle.
* The shield/wave deflector you can put up front stops the super-soaker splashes that are inevitable for the bow position seat. It’s clear so you can see them coming and doesn’t get in the way of the child paddling.
* The front cockpit has a raised seat and narrow hip pad positioning so your child doesn’t rattle around.
* Grab handles on the side help you move the 48-pound tandem boat; since the cockpit rim isn’t in the center, you need to use the handles or carry it like a canoe, resting the boat on your back like a yoke.
* The rear outfitting is easily adjustable on a track for different leg sizes.
Corran notes that the boat is laid up light so it can be carried by one person and paddled on easy whitewater with a child. So the hull isn’t built for rocky Class IV. But it still seems stiff with the outfitting supports.
We’ve truly enjoyed surfing the boat on easy waves, and carving it up with its nicely designed chine in a fast, under-10-foot boat. The boat is nimble downstream and easy to catch eddies and avoid obstacles. Me being me, I’ve pushed it a little on boofing smallish features — to my wife’s chagrin — but it seems to have speed. At 6’4” and with a 203cm paddle, I have to be cognizant not to collide strokes with my tyke-sized bow mate, but I can reach him from my seat and put him back in if needed.
I’d compare its performance to that of a larger creek boat more than a tandem, which was surprising. Even though there isn’t much stern behind you, if you paddle it upright or leaning forward it rewards you with crisp turns and a balanced feel.
We also use a loose nylon skirt Corran calls the Dino Skirt. It’s easy on and off and Finn can pull it on himself, and still stand up when he gets fidgety. And it just comes off on its own. (View here: https://www.soulwaterman.com/collections/kidsproducts/products/dinoskirt )
Watch video here: