Paddle Boarding With Kids

Difficult, isn’t it, coming up with fun activities for your kids that doesn’t involve the glowing screen of a television or a laptop or a tablet? How many different outdoor activities can you come up with especially given the pandemic situation? Kids can no longer go to parks and play with others even though lockdown has been lifted in many countries; most parents cannot yet bring themselves to take them to even moderately crowded areas. Fear not, we have a great alternative planned for you- paddle boarding with your kids. This will not only help them stay active but also bring them closer to nature while still keeping them away from crowds.

Getting Started:

First thing to decide upon is the whether to let your kid have a board of his/her own or whether to make them co-paddlers. It’s generally advisable to have a parent riding with a kid who is less than five years old. One can make your little angel’s day if you hand them a small peddle or anything really that looks like a paddle to keep them occupied because of course kids like anything that makes them think that they are helping. But once he/she passes that age the parent should decide based on the athletic abilities and willingness of the kid if he/she is to be allowed to have a boat of his/her one.

However, prior to letting your child free on their own board, it’s highly recommended that they are strong swimmers and most importantly comfortable. Other than that, the parents should also be patient, like with all firsts, whatever they may be, the first time will be SCARY (even if they don’t show it). You know your kids and every child will be different. You’ll likely have to adjust to each child a little differently.

When letting children try something new for the first time, parents need to help build confidence by encouragement and often trial and error. If you are a little fearful of allowing them to paddle alone, and then take it slow, wait until your fear is gone. Make sure you are comfortable paddling alone before trying to teach your child to do the same or get someone else to help. Your kids need to feel that YOU are not scared and that you believe they can do it; otherwise, it's going to be hard to teach them.

Recommended Packing List:

  • Waterproof Bag
  • Life vest
  • Water/ Juice
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses/Goggles

Find the right paddle board:

The most important thing to do before letting your kids go solo is to find a paddle board that is sized for them. A shorter board will help maneuverability and a wider paddle board is more stable. Also, you need to size the paddle for them. When standing on land, their arm should be at a 45-degree angle when holding the handle. Getting an adjustable paddle for kids so that it can grow with them is a smart decision.

For co-paddlers, just make sure you calculate a total weight (you + them + gear). You’ll also want a stable board so they can move around a little. If you have multiple kids, consider a big board that can hold the whole crew.

The Skills needed:

With a little bit of practice and added aid of some flat water, your kids will be mastering the art in no time and any way, swaddled in a life jacket falling off is way more fun than falling of a bicycle.

For Co-Paddlers:

  1. Start with them seated at your feet. Remember that the more they move around, the more challenging it will be for you.
  2. PRO TIP: practice in shallow, calm water first so everyone can find their balance and place on the board.
  3. When they want to stand, have them stand just in front of you. If they show an interest in paddling, bring an extra paddle; just always keep yours so you have control of the board.
  4. Once comfortable, encourage them to move about your board, stick their toes and hands in the water. And a favorite, if the sun is shining, plan a few breaks for jumping into the water.

For Solo Paddle Boarders:

  1. Starting on land, do a quick walkthrough on how to position themselves on the board, how to paddle, how to turn, and what to do with their paddle when transitioning from kneeling to standing. Once out on the water, be ready to repeat those things several times.
  2. Show them how to hold the paddle and the basic stroke.
  3. When it's time for the water, start shallow, but be sure they only mount a board once they're at least knee-deep. Maybe encourage them to start from a kneeling position and to stand once they are ready.

Remember: It’s all about keeping things simple and fun, don’t overthink it.

Safety Tips to keep in mind:

Don’t be an amateur: If you've never paddled board before, learn the sport before introducing it to your kids. If they're riding with you and fall off, you want to be confident that you can get your kid back on the board without both of you going in. If your kid is old enough to go solo, make sure you can paddle to them if they have a problem.

Always wear a life jacket: Obviously, your kid needs to be in a life jacket, even if they're great swimmers. Take them off only if you want to go for a swim.

Stay on calm water: Pick a location that you've paddled before and one that has more peaceful conditions. Even a slight breeze or current can turn their board into a treadmill. Be mindful of currents and always paddle against them first, so it's an easy return. You'll want to steer clear of the ocean until they nail their balance and stay close to shore so you can both paddle in easily.

Check the forecast: As mentioned, strong wind on a paddle board sucks even for adults. If the wind is under 10 knots (approximately 11 mph) it's generally safe for any skill level. Even so, notice the direction it's blowing (or the way the current is flowing) and paddle AGAINST it to start so you or your kids don't get too exhausted to get back in. Never paddle in offshore winds with kids and don't go if storms are predicted.

Teach them basic water safety: To ride along, your child should be comfortable in the water and able to swim with a lifejacket. Once they get more confident and are standing, show them how to fall safely (aim for the water, not the board) and how to get back on the board in the water. It's not difficult but worth practicing before sending them off solo. Of course, you want them comfortable but not TOO comfortable. Make sure they always paddle with an adult.

Plan to take breaks: Meltdowns happen. So do tired arms. Either stay close to shore so you can paddle in, or bring an anchor or sand spear so you don't drift when someone needs to take a break.

Bring a Rope: It’s fun to tie the boards together if taking a break and having a way to tow a board in sometimes comes in handy!

Written by William Lester