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Essential tips for stand up paddle boarding with kids

Essential tips for stand up paddle boarding with kids

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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?

Giving it a go quickly put all my concerns were put to rest. Find out why by reading our essential paddle boarding tips in this post which includes our experience from our first three years of paddle boarding with children.

There’s advice about the practicalities like what to wear and which paddle boards are best as well as safety tips and some paddle board games your kids will love.

Everything you need to know about stand up paddle boarding with kids from safety and bouyancy aids to where to go and what to wear so you can enjoy the ride #SUP #paddleboard #watersports #outdoorfun #outdoorfamily #travelblog #familytravel #Devon #tips #paddle #familyactivity #howto

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Our experience paddle boarding with kids

‘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 were 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.

Since then we’ve not looked back.

Here’s what we learnt as paddle boarding beginners and some tips for other families thinking of trying paddle boarding for the first time.

Can you paddle board with a child?


This is a water sport so this is not an activity to do without a bit of research. But it is totally possible to paddle board with a child or two.

Below you’ll find our tips for having fun and keeping safe while paddle boarding with kids.

Is paddle boarding easy?

In just four weeks we were totally won over by stand up paddle boarding and the new perspective it gave us on the South Coast of England.

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. 

Family on boards - Paddle boarding with kids

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.

Kid standing on a paddle board

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.

What are some of the best paddle boards?

Tot sitting cross legged on Splash stand up paddle board

The price range of paddle boards varies a lot from tens of pounds to thousands.

The difference obviously comes down to the quality of the material and how they have been put together.

If you’re new to paddle boarding but not sure if it’s something you want to do regularly it’s probably best to buy something at the cheaper end. However, do also see if you can borrow someone else’s more expensive board to see what differences there are in how it sits in and moves through the water.

We have had the chance to try out two paddle board brands: Red Paddle Co and Sandbanks Style – both made in the UK.

Here’s our review of the Red high end inflatable stand up paddle boards we borrowed and the Sandbanks mid-budget paddle boards we have bought since so you can see the differences.

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.

Tips for paddle boarding with kids

Woman attempting a step back turn on SUP board

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.

Riding together at Salcombe North Sands

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

Child kneeling on paddle board in river

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

Claire kneeling on paddle board on the sea in front of Kingswear Castle in Devon

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.

Paddle boarding on the River Dart in Devon

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

Riding a paddle board with a kid in Devon

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.

We’d also recommend getting some changing robes to use after your adventures.

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

Coil leash on 10'6 Ride Red Paddle Co inflatable paddle board

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.

We picked up a Gul Garda 50N buoyancy aid from Go Outdoors for £40 and a Circle One kids buoyancy vest for £45 from a surf shop. There’s more available on Amazon*.

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.

Restube floatation device pack

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

Mr Tin Box paddle boarding along South Devon coast on a sunny day

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.

8. Make it fun – paddle board games

Family sat and soot on three SUP boards put together to create a ship
SUP fun with Easy Riders

Once paddle boarding became the norm for our kids they started to get a bit fidgety about coming for a ride. So this is why we have started to introduce some paddle board games to our outings.

Here’s a few:

  • Pirate ship – see above – this is one we learnt on a trip to Dorset. You need three boards – two facing front and one laid over the top. The adults stand on the back of the two boards facing the front while the kids sit on the one across the middle and, usually, shout orders.
  • Walk the plank – an adult holds a single board at a 90 degree angle to the shore. The kids climb on at the shallow end and jump in at the deeper end.
  • Rock the boat – two people stand facing each other a single board with their feet on either side. They then rock the board back and forth and see how long they can stay on.
  • Stepping stones – you need two boards in shallow water for this one. Two people hold the boards, one at the front ends and the other at the back ends. Other family members then see if they can step across the two boards without falling off.

These are all fun games for building confidence in the water too.

Here’s a mash up of our first few times out with the boards:

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links marked with *. If you click on one of these and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.

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Everything you need to know about stand up paddle boarding with kids from safety and bouyancy aids to where to go and what to wear so you can enjoy the ride #SUP #paddleboard #watersports #outdoorfun #outdoorfamily #travelblog #familytravel #Devon #tips #paddle #familyactivity #howto

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iROCKER Canada

Wednesday 5th of May 2021

Great tips!!!!!


Friday 11th of October 2019

Great tips! Also from the photos at least, i can tell you train your shoulders! :D

Cathy (Mummytravels)

Friday 19th of July 2019

What great tips - you all look like you're having so much fun but never having done it, it's so useful to be reminded of how to do it safely

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