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I got a call on my cell phone from Jody, our project manager for the Hero series molding, who described her first attempt to reach me at my home office. She called and asked for me; Dane answered. When she said she was looking for me and where she was from, Dane asked, “Is the Side Kick mold in yet?” This would be only the 1,000th time Dane has asked this question, usually of me, but today, the answer would be different. Jody said when she told him, “yes, it is in” that she heard hooting and hollering and thought it was very “cute”. Well, things don’t always go exactly right, however, as Dane gets his Tonsils removed on Monday after a two month battle with tonsillitis. I will have the first Side Kick ready next week, only a few days after his surgery and he will have to wait two weeks to paddle it!
The Side Kick is the little sibling of the Hero and Super Hero. Yet another chapter has begun in kids’ paddling, and kids’ kayaks. With the Fun 1 being the starter boat at only 19 pounds and for 3-10 year olds (little 10 year olds!), this is a boat that the little ones can actually carry around like mom and dad. Dane paddled this Fun 1 design for 3 years across the globe (Zambezi River, Nile River, Europe, South Silver creek in California, winning more competitions than can be counted during that time with it.) Not “dummying it down” for kids was one of the best decisions I have made in the direction of a boat design. The Fun 1.5 is for when you are starting them in the 8-12 year old range and the same deal- super lightweight, and easy to paddle, but still a high performance craft. The 2 Fun is in its second iteration and parents have the opportunity to get the “Classic 2 Fun” for their 11-14 year olds (100-140 pounds) for only $699, or they can get the new improved version for $999 giving them even more options.

Then there is the full on Freestyle option, perfect for kids who will paddle the same rivers a lot and not traveling around needing the best river runner, but wanting the highest performance and fastest learning curve for playboating. This is like the skateboard for the kid who street skates, or goes to the skatepark, more than a mode of transportation. The Shooting Star is the opening size, and is one of the cutest kayaks I have ever seen. It just looks too small to be real, and no you can’t get one leg in it. This is the boat that allows the little one to be just as big and just as strong relatively speaking in a pool, on a wave, or in a hole. Fast, loose, easy to paddle, huge air moves, etc. give your kid something to look forward too each time on the water! For the kids in the 50-100 pound range (next size up from the Fun 1) this boat rocks. A little too big for the Shooting Star? The Star is the ticket. For 90-145 pounds, the Star is your young teens kayak and they can be proud of the fact that it won both the Junior Women’s and Women’s World Championships!

There are only so many “creeker kids” in the world, or kids who really want or need a full on creekboat, but that didn’t stop us from making the Punk Rocker in a size works for even Dane at 4’9” and 80 pounds! Watch the videos “Here and Now” and “Hotel Charlie: Lost World” for some cool creeking footage in the Punk Rocker. In my experience, if mom or dad has a creekboat, junior wants a creekboat. We didn’t make this a pint sized boat, because it would have collected dust. We took it to the Dane and up size- 80-160 pounds. Your Punk kid would love it, mine certainly does. Not every kid needs more than one boat, of course, no need to spoil them!
That brings us back to the Side Kick! We positioned this boat in between the Fun 1.5 and 2 Fun size ergonomically, but left the door wide open for a large range of paddlers to fit. Mom and Dad have a river runner, and finally junior can too! An incredibly easy to paddle, properly sized (this isn’t a long boat), super easy to roll, lightweight, river runner will allow the family to paddle down the river duckie style. Mom and Dad in Hero and Super Hero while junior follows in the Side Kick. I love that visual, and can’t wait to see it this spring!
The legacy of kids kayaking is still young. Jackson Kayak introduced the world to it in 2004 with our first production kayak being the Fun 1, followed by the 2 Fun. Less than 6 months later we introduced the Fun 1.5, and have not stopped since. While it isn’t necessary for us to create a new kids kayak each year, we do want to make sure we have all of the needs covered. Freestyle, River Running Play, Creeking, and of course, finally, the River Runner (Side Kick).

If you are new to paddling, welcome to the Jackson family! We are here for you. Email me photos of your kids in their boats and we’ll make them stars by posting them on our website. Share your experiences with your kids with others, and we’ll post them to our “family corner” section. The extended Jackson Kayak family keeps growing just like the kids it in! Kids are outgrowing their Fun 1’s and passing them on to siblings, friends, and family, making it almost impossible to find them in the used market. Buy a Fun 1 and you’ll have a lot of new friends, wanting to inherit it from you before you sell it, and are usually willing to wait a couple of years while their new baby learns to walk and talk, which are typical prerequisites for paddling.
See you on the river!