5 Tips To Get Your Kids Into Stand Up Paddle Boarding
The Next Generation of Paddlers
Stand up paddle boarding has been revolutionized with the introduction of inflatable boards that can be retrieved and packed in the trunk of a car at a moment's notice. SUP boards facilitate one of life's most fun adventures on whatever body of water is nearest and are easier to stow than bikes and less cumbersome than kayaks or canoes.
The family-friendly nature is one of the biggest benefits of this recreational activity. These 5 tips will get your kids out and enjoying the water as much as you. Whether you want a new little SUP buddy, or just a good excuse to buy an extra board for the quiver here is some information to consider.
Start them young
The question often asked is at what age should you start a child on the water? The answer has many variables but the earliest you feel comfortable taking them out as a parent is really the best answer.
Starting children on their SUP adventure at a young age is highly encouraged and beneficial to their development. Kids will learn without the fears that we possess at an older age and getting them confident in the water young is an important life skill. Even if they don't take to it initially, the stand up paddle board will help them cognitively with things like balance and stability.
Starting children young will give them a good introduction to water, being confident in and around it without panicking. Learning to swim at the same time is a huge motivation to many to get more time on the big inflatable board, and eventually a board of their own.
As a parent the best thing you can offer a child in this world is opportunity. The option to try many activities and even if they go in another direction they will have been exposed to it and will always take something away from it. Great experiences shape little humans, into better big humans.
Make it Fun
Kids just want to have fun, they aren't interested in big trips or even technique. They will have just as much fun using the board as a slide or ramp on the beach or in the garden. Short, sharp activities are the key. Don't let them get bored, keep their attention and keep them involved in what you are doing. As we know kids love to 'help' so find little ways to keep them involved even if it's just holding some gear or carrying your paddle.
Jumping off a board is just as much fun as the look on a parent's face when they do it again and again. A SUP has a whole host of uses from a princess castle to a desert island, what can your stand up paddle board become? Depending on the age of your little one, take a bath toy, a rubber duck or ball, something that floats, and let them play on the board around the water to keep their attention.
Fixed fin boards are highly recommended for use with and around kids. They are going to get excited and jump on the board at some point so not have to worry about fin or fin box breakage is more important than a little extra glide.
The Right Size Board
Having the right size board can be either an excuse for you to get a new toy but really think realistically about exactly how you intend to use the board. If you are already at the top of your board's weight range then adding another body to it will certainly make things a little more unstable. As kids grow and get bigger you might think to pick yourself up a board that is a little larger and has a bit more capacity for your important passenger.
Think about deck pad space and bungee cords. Removing any extra bungees just to alleviate any snag hazards and maximize deck space for a child is something to consider. As children grow up they are going to want a board of their own. There are many opinions on this and it will depend on the age of your child and their commitment level to paddling. Some parents will use their second board to tow the kids and this can be a lot of fun. We put a D-Ring at the nose of every board for towing so it's just a matter of securing a tow rope to leash D-Ring at the back of your board and adventure awaits.
The Right Safety Equipment
When out paddling with a child, safety is critical. We aren't talking about wrapping them in cotton wool because we want to expose them to the sport, just no unnecessary risks or hazardous behavior. Depending on your environment, think about a small wetsuit for younger children. These should be close fitting and will need to be replaced each year. Check your local surf shop as many will offer a trade-in service for this. Wetsuits are important as children don't have much body fat and will get cold much quicker and can be the difference between having a fun day out or an extremely short one. Using a specific kids-size PFD life vest designed for water sports is important as opposed to a simple swimming aid. For kids always use an inherently buoyant life jacket, not a belt pack which should not be considered until way into their late teens.
A great tip for very young children and all this equipment is to turn it into a game in the house. Try it in the bath or shower and practice using it before you have tantrums on the beach working out which hole is for which arm. Children need to feel safe and secure so always have a big fluffy towel on hand to wrap them in when everything gets too much and don't be afraid to cut the time out short to keep their interest.
The most important attitude to instill into children is that safe = fun. After a few sessions if they are old enough, make them ‘Safety Captain’ and put them in charge of making sure everyone is wearing correct safety gear. This gives your child a sense of responsibility on the water and brings acute attention to the aspect of water safety which will serve them well into adulthood. Having your five-year-old berate you for not wearing your life jacket is going to fill you with unbelievable joy as a parent.
Depending on the age of your child, maybe they won't be ready to paddle off into the wilderness with you for a few years, but you can bide your time and turn it into a project. Make sure you get yourself out to keep your own skill level up then spend as much time as possible playing games with your kids to keep their interest. As they learn they will gradually pick up things from balance to stand, to actually using a paddle, it's not an instant reward, but for them just to be on the board will be a massive achievement and should always be rewarded.
Children will always pick up skills at different stages, just remember it's important to keep things fun, fresh, and exciting and let them develop and learn in their own time without pressure. Give them plenty of reassurance and praise. It isn’t a destination, it’s a journey so enjoy every minute, they grow up very quickly.