I’ve been back in the high desert for a week, and I’ve still got water on the brain. All last month at Stony Lake, my two daughters and I went everywhere by boat: our family’s old beat-up Boston Whaler, my mother’s 1957 cedar strip canoe, and her spiffy new Rossiter fiberglass-and-teak rowing skiff. We paddled or rowed around the island almost every day, but I never got up my nerve to take them out in our single touring kayak. For starters, it's tippy enough with one person, never mind a wriggly two- or four-year-old, and the cockpit is too tight to maneuver a paddle comfortably with a child in your lap. I figured I’d have to wait until they’re old enough to paddle themselves.
Or maybe not.
I was psyched to discover the new Perception Prodigy 13.5, a recreational kayak that’s designed to fit one adult plus a small passenger (kid, dog, cat, circus clown—take your pick). Basically a boat-and-a-half, the Prodigy calls itself the industry’s “first true companion kayak," with an 80-inch oversized cockpit and a new collapsible child’s seat that clips in just in front of the main seat. The seat is ample enough for a small adult, and it detaches easily when you want to go solo or use it in another boat (the no-slip bottom makes it a versatile option for canoes and rowboats).
But just because the Prodigy is designed for family paddling doesn’t mean it skimps on features: adjustable padded thigh braces, easy sliding foot braces, deck bungee, and a stern hatch for stowing day gear make it an all-around winner for recreational paddling on lakes, ponds, and flat-water rivers. For an extra $200 you can spring for a rudder.
Once your kid is ready to graduate to his own flat-water boat, the brand new Prodigy XS is scaled down to a small paddler’s proportions, with a narrower, lower hull for easy paddling and better visibility. At only 10 feet long and 27 pounds, it weighs (and costs) less than some jogging strollers and is exceptionally maneuverable on and off the water. This one should be a staple in any water kid’s quiver.
Perception Prodigy 13.5, $799; Prodigy XS, $399; www.perceptionkayaks.com.