Looking for an outdoor adventure the whole family can enjoy? Pass on your love of stand up paddle boarding to your kids and enjoy the water together.
Like any new activity, give your kids a great experience their first few times participating and they will fall in love with it like you did. Make it anything other than fun, and forget about it. Stand up paddle boarding is no different. Take these few tips from my experience to make it fun and safe, and your kids will be begging to hit the water again!
Make Teaching Your Kids to Paddle Board Fun and Easy
Start them SUP’ing YoungI started my daughter Nora riding along on the nose of my stand up paddle board when she was three. At that age, she wasn't strong enough, or really all that interested in paddling it herself. All she knew was that riding on the nose of an SUP board was fun, her parents were there to have fun with her, and it was awesome. Even now at age 9, she still likes to ride along sometimes even though she is a strong little paddle boarder. Let your child progress as they are comfortable - some kids may want to paddle on their own when they are 5, others may not be ready until they are older.
Have realistic expectations
Kids get tired, kids get cold, kids get bored, kids get hungry, kids get thirsty, kids get whiny, and in general kids are pretty unpredictable. If you only go 50ft on the SUP outing, then so be it. Not too many kids are interested in going out for super long or hard paddles - so change it up a bit. Paddle out to the middle of the lake for a swim, have a contest about who can do the best jump off the board, or just sit down and hang out.
I can’t count the number of times Nora and I have gone out just for the sole purpose of going swimming. The stand up paddle board was just there to get us to the middle of the lake and I am 100% good with that. If the paddle only lasts 10 minutes, don’t get frustrated with them for it being so short - instead, gave a little praise and a high five and be thankful your child likes to SUP. And, if they want to dress up like Batman, let them do that as well!
Use your judgement on conditions. Flat and calm is the way to go. If the conditions are rough and windy, it will be hard for them and also a little scary. Remember that the the smaller you are, the bigger things like waves and distances look, so be aware that what looks easy to you might be scary to them. That 1 foot wave that looks small to you, could look like a tsunami to them.
A SUP leash and PFD are 100% must have, as is sunscreen, water, and a healthy amount of parental patience.
Have The Right Size Stand Up Paddle Board
A huge part of making sure that stand up paddle boarding with your kids is easy and fun is making sure you have the right sized board. To make sure it is stable enough, add their weight to your weight, and then make sure you have a board that will accommodate the total weight. If the board is too small the ride will be unstable and harder than it needs to be - and that isn’t fun for anyone.
For example, I weigh 155lbs and when Nora started she weight 60lbs. So that is a total of 215 pounds of weight. We would often use the 11ft version of the Blend or the Betty (yes, I am a man and yes, I love the purple version), which has a weight range of up to 230lbs. The Kona Classic 11’6, or the Kona Wood 11’6, are another couple of great choices, both of which have weight ranges up to about 240lbs.
I never hesitate to correct technique to make Nora a better stand up paddle boarder, but I am always encouraging her. It doesn't take much - a "you’re awesome" here, and "I can't keep up to you" there goes a long way. Make your child feel good about themselves, and remember that no matter how slow they are, they are trying their best. If you start to get overly pushy, critical, or too much like this crazy hockey dad it will really start to tarnish the fun.
Make SUP fun and easy and your kids will love it
Make it Fun. This is the #1 tip I can give. I like to paddle hard and push my endurance - but on my own time. When I am paddling with Nora, it is just about fun. Swimming, talking, goofing off, and whatever else goes. With her on my SUP I have carried an uncountable number of stuffed animals, done crafts, taken pictures, and faked more dramatic falls that I care to count. But - when I ask her if she wants to go out for a paddle the answer is almost always yes. To me that is mission accomplished.
Have you taught your kids to stand up paddle board? Have some great advice you can offer to other parents who SUP? Want to share your own experience of SUP’ing with your kids? Comment below or email us at email@example.com
Great article, Mike. Properly introducing our children to the sport and keeping things fun is the key. I think FAR too many kids today are being pushed into races and high-pressure competitions, and many lose the pure stoke that they got from paddling in the very beginning.
Kids’ SUP safety is another major issue that needs more coverage. I recently put together a fun infographic to help educate parents on this important topic, perhaps it will be a helpful add-on resource to your post:
Keep up the great work, Mike — and happy paddling.