If you're reading this page, it's because you're thinking of taking your young children out into a whitewater river environment. That's great news... bravo for introducing them to the life you love so much.
But, You need to be smart. You're not out there on your own. You don't take a two year old (or 8yr old) into an environment that could cause problems.There are some basic common sense "rules" you need to follow. This is by far an incomplete list, but these are some of the things you need to consider:
1) If you yourself are not completely and utterly comfortable in the environment you are considering taking your child, DON'T DO IT. If you're a class 3 boater, do not take your child into class 2. If you're a class 5+ boater, then class 2 makes sense. If you're a class 4+ boater, then class 1+ makes sense. And if you're a class 3 boater - just wait until they are old enough or go to the lake instead. Be smart - it's not worth it!
2) Paddle with someone else all the time - who is my spotter and back up. This person (in Corran's case, his wife) is always checking on the kid and letting me know how he's doing. It's advisable to paddle in stuff where the kid is generally not getting a face full of water but on the odd occasion when happens, immediately ask your spotter for a visual ok. Is the kid having a good time or in distress? The moment your child is not having an awesome time, stop. It's not worth scaring him or her away from whitewater because you're over eager. Remember, this is YOUR passion, not your kids (not yet). If you want it to become theirs, you need to go slowly, and always keep it fun.
3) In the event of a swim (however unlikely it's got to be in your calculations) your priority is your kid, not the equipment. That's why we have designed the front cockpit in arms reach. Once you know you're going in, reach forward and grab your kid, blow your skirt with your knee (you need to use a "cheap" bungee style skirt that will pop off with little more than your knee pushing upwards from the inside, and your childs skirt must equally pop off on its own with you pulling him or her out). Make sure that your child is wearing a life jacket that cannot come off and will roll them onto the back.
4) Make sure that your child is comfortable in water before going. A couple of years of swimming lessons, where they are comfortable in water, able to hold their breath under water, and don't panic when submerged. Do not take them paddling until they have reached that level of comfort in water. Corran has been swimming class 1 rapids with his son, playing, splashing, asking "do you want to swim into that wave or this one" getting him used to the splashing, and the occasional dunking. The comfort in water, in whitewater, quadrupled in just a week as a result of a half dozen 200m long swims every evening like this. Comfort in the river changes everything. He went from afraid of waves and getting dunked, to wanting it. But you have to get there slowly, and it has to be their call.
5) Talk to your kid. Encourage them. Make it fun. Make it a game. They'll have a great time, but they need to feel like you are 100% in control of the environment. Remember once more, this is your passion, not theirs. Their passion is throwing sticks into the water from the front cockpit, smearing mud onto the boat, crawling inside the boat, and looking for ducks from the water. Keep this about them, not about you. The love for rivers and paddling will grow in time. Watch the video below as just one example,
6) Know when to call it quits. You know your kid. You know when he or she has had enough, vs just being 3 with a 2 min attention span. Your spotter needs to know this too. It's better to stop and get out too soon, than to take it too far and put them off paddling.
7) If you're paddling with a 4-5 year old (vs 2-3yr old) or older things change. Now you can go to the pool. You can practice things like wet exit, forward tuck and possibly even rolling etc. It's completely different for a 4-5yr old than 2-3 and you have to think and paddle that way.
Once more, if your skill level and comfort level is not one where you are absolutely sure you can do this safely, then don't do it. YOU need to use good judgement.
Enjoy yourself out there, and be safe!
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