Essential tips for stand up paddle boarding with kids
If you have the chance to try paddle boarding with kids but are wondering if it is suitable for children then you’d not be alone. I had my reservations too. Would they be constantly falling off? Would it be safe? And would they get cold and miserable?
During the summer all my concerns were put to rest. Find out why by reading our essential paddle boarding tips in this post.
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‘Shall we take the boards to the beach?’, is not a question I would have expected to hear in the Tin Box household before July 2019. You’re more likely to find us exploring in the woods or building sandcastles than doing anything remotely like a water sport.
But there we were, on the cusp of summer, packing two loaned inflatable paddle boards into the back of the car and heading off to find some water.
Here’s how we approached this new family hobby and what we learnt as paddle boarding beginners.
Is paddle boarding easy?
In just four weeks we were totally won over by stand up paddle boarding and the new perspective it’s given us on the South Coast where we live.
Plus, it didn’t take at all long to get to grips with the basics of paddle boarding. Even I – a wobbly and uncoordinated, exercise dodger – was able to stand up and enjoy the ride.
The kids were naturals – their lower centre of gravity probably helped! Both six-year-old Tot and four-year-old Baby quickly took to standing up and paddling effectively, even on full size boards. So don’t be afraid to start kids young, with close supervision.
We found it great fun to go riding together. On one adventure on the River Dart, both girls were very happy to be chauffeured on the front of the boards and watch the world go by; playing games and spotting jelly fish and other interesting river sights.
It’s a really exciting experience being on the water and seeing the world from a different angle.
So yes, I’d say it is easy to get started and so addictive. We’re by no means pros but had fun and surely that’s the lion’s share of what it’s all about.
We have since bought two adult SUP boards and a junior board from Sandbanks SUP Style.
Please be aware that there’s more to paddle boarding than getting the boards. You need the right safety kit too. See point 6 below about buoyancy aids and personal flotation devices.
Here’s a mash up of our first few times out with the boards:
What you need to know about paddle boarding with kids
Like any adventurous activity or water sport, doing it safety is paramount.
We are lucky that Mr Tin Box has some experience leading groups in outdoor activities. So he made sure we were safe paddle boarding with our then six and four-year-old kids.
Here’s his seven top tips for making sure you are safe on the water when paddle boarding with kids:
1. Know your team (family)
Knowing what you can do and what your kids are comfortable with will always be a personal judgement. Before starting, ask yourself if what you are about to do is within your ability and that of your kids.
Don’t be tempted to copy others or think it is safe just because someone else is doing it. You don’t know their experience or appetite for risk taking, so make your own call.
Equally, exposure to managed risk is a great thing for a kid to experience, so don’t be afraid to get them out of their comfort zone.
2. Talk your kids through it
Whether you are just splashing around off a beach or going further afield, it’s worth talking through some basic rules with your kids. How far can they go from the beach? What do they do if they fall in or something unexpected happens?
Difficult situations are always easier if those involved remain calm. By having the conversation before it happens kids (and adults) are more likely to react in a safe manner.
Think of it like running your kids through a fire drill at home or school.
3. Understand the environment
Even on bright summer days with lots of people around, the water can be dangerous. Having an appreciation of wind, tide and your own ability is essential to make sure you don’t end up in a situation you can’t control.
An off shore wind can quickly carry you out to sea, so look for inshore or sheltered areas that provide better conditions.
Similarly, strong tides and currents will have an impact, so time your activity correctly. For example, on tidal rivers, an hour before and after high or low tide provides a period of slack water where tidal stream is slower.
Read our tips for paddle boarding in winter.
4. Gain experience and training
Each time we took the boards out we increased in confidence and ability. Our adventure down the Dart River was great fun but only because we knew it was within our capabilities.
We found the shallow waters off Knoll Beach in Dorset, North Sands in Salcombe and Oxwich Bay in the Gower Peninsular were ideal for gaining confidence paddling. The girls were also able to have a go while we stood beside the board to provide assistance.
As we progress on our paddle board adventures we will be looking to get some professional tuition.
Until then we’ve found some really handy SUP tuition videos on the Red Paddle Co website. There is nothing like some helpful advice from the experts to quickly improve your skills.
5. Wear appropriate paddle boarding clothes
Getting cold and wet is never fun. Investing in some wet suits or appropriate clothing will make sure you and the kids stay comfortable and can stay in the water longer.
Here’s our kit list including what to wear when paddle boarding including SUP gear for summer and winter.
6. Wear the right safety kit for paddle boarding
Looking after children in a potentially hazardous environment like open water can be stressful. Ensuring you have the right kit and equipment will prevent this and make the whole experience better for everyone.
Something that we didn’t have before we were loaned the paddle boards were buoyancy aids for the kids.
It’s a good idea to talk through the various options with shop staff or seek advice from a professional to make sure you get an appropriate buoyancy aid for your kid.
Red Paddle Co also supplied us with two Airbelt personal flotation devices for myself and Mr Tin Box to wear.
Think of those life jackets they use in safety demonstrations in planes but tucked away in a waist belt that you can quickly put over your head and inflate should you get into trouble.
These have been specially designed for Red to give you the reassurance of carrying a buoyancy aid without it getting in the way.
We have since bought two Restube Classic buoyancy aids*, which act as quick inflating floats should we lose our boards.
We also have a coil leashes that attached to the back of each board and fastened around our ankles so there was no chance of losing it if we came off.
7. Get advice on safe places to paddle board
Beach life guards or beach side water sports hire shops will be aware of local hazards and might be able to offer some advice on specific locations for paddle boarding.
The RNLI are the life saving experts and have a fantastic series of guides for staying safe on the water. Before embarking on your own paddle boarding adventure it’s a good idea to read and heed their advice on paddle boarding.
We are totally hooked on paddle boarding. Expect more SUP adventures and insights to come!
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