Paddle Boarding With a Baby: 7 Steps to Successfully SUP

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You just got that new family but you think “Man I haven’t gone paddle boarding in forever! I wonder if paddle boarding with a baby is possible?” 

Well, the good news is you can go paddle boarding with your baby! However, you need a few things to start off with and you will need patience on your end.  

Ready to have that magical paddle with your newfound family? Read on below as I inform you what and what not to do when paddle boarding with baby.

Have a child aged 5 and up? Take a look at our guide on Paddle Boarding with Kids!

Should You Ride With a Baby/ Toddler on a Paddle Board?

Let’s face it. Different children have different temperaments. There are a few things that you must keep in mind though.

  • Your Baby/ Toddler Should be able to sit up on their own to prevent them from rolling on the deck.
  • You need a properly well-fitted PFD

Conservatively I would wait until your child is at least 8 – 12 months of age before tackling the water. The key to this is having a safe paddle-boarding experience where they don’t have any memories that may scar them. 

The older the child is the more coordinated they are which is often why it’s easier to paddle with toddlers because they have better motor skills including being able to grasp and hold objects. 

Don’t worry, we’ll go through what to do below so that you can all have a memorable time together and start them off early.

Steps to Paddle Boarding with Your Baby

Below are steps you should take to have an easier time paddle boarding with your child. The key to this is going at THEIR pace. As soon as you start to see them become anxious or scared it’s time to cut the time short and start again when they are in better head space. 

Step 1: Have a Stable Paddle Board Available

Gili Komodo passenger
Gili Komodo SUP

What are some of the things to look for in a stable paddle board? Well, the 2 biggest keys will be the length and width of the board. The longer the length and the wider the board the more stable your paddle board will be

For paddling with a baby/ toddler I would recommend at least a 10’6” board with a 250-plus-pound maximum capacity.

Your baby will be sitting at the front of the board so look for something that has removable or non-intrusive deck webbing so that their feet or hands do not get caught as they move around. 

Step 2: Be Comfortable on the Board Yourself

Before you even think of having a baby or toddler on your board you have to be sufficient in most paddling conditions. This means being able to stand, kneel, and sit on the board as well as paddle straight and being able to properly maneuver the board. 

Step 3: Have a Toddler-friendly PFD fitted

One of the most essential steps in this process is having a fitted PFD that fits properly! Here are some recommendations from ilearntoboat

InfantSmall Child
SizeLess than 30 Lbs30-50 Lbs
AgeNewborn to 2 Years Old2-5 Years
Chest Size16-20” 20-23” to 23-25” 

So how do you find the proper fit for your paddle boarding baby? Below is a good video on finding the proper fit. 

In terms of life jackets we like the Stohlquist Infant PFD thanks to its mobility-friendly design and the manufacturer’s experience in the Life Vet field. 

Step 4: Start Off in a Controlled Environment

To start off, you want to expose your child to a paddle board without all the water and floating, etc. Put your board on the land and get your child to crawl around on it. I recommend putting their favorite sticker on the front of the board (just in front of where you are kneeling).

As they get more comfortable you can gently rock the board and simulate some of the conditions on the water. Be mindful of how they respond to them and stop if they get anxious.

Step 5: Start off in Calm Conditions

Now it’s actually time to go out onto the water! You can do this either in a shallow bay or a pool. This means there’s hardly any wind, no waves, and especially no currents or tides. Check your favorite weather website for details on the temperatures, wind speed, and water temperature of your area. 

You are going to be standing at the side of the board holding it while placing your baby or toddler on the board. This experience will not be super long. In an ideal world, stop when they are having the most fun

As you continue exposing your child to the paddle board you can soon go on board with them. Simply sit on the SUP and have your partner hand over your baby and place them in front of you. In between your legs works well as they feel more secure having your body there that they can hold onto. 

Stay close to shallow water. If they are not fazed you can start gently paddling. Stop when they begin to get agitated or anxious. 

Step 6: Have Patience

Getting your baby to paddle board with you will rarely be as straightforward as you think it is. You should only be standing on the paddle board when they are at the toddler age and they are already fully comfortable on the board

You are going to be slowly pushing the boundaries as to how long you go out with your baby. Each time just add a bit more time and go just a little bit further offshore. 

Step 7: Bring Proper Supplies

As your baby or toddler becomes more comfortable being on the board with you, you will need to bring a few supplies to keep them happy. 

  • Water (this goes for everyone) 
  • Snack and or a lunch (hungry children are cranky children)
  • A special toy (this gives them some responsibility to keep their precious belongings safe) 

You can also give them a toy shovel, bucket or net for them to interact with their environment as you are paddling. Just realize that this will rock the paddle board a bit going to the side of the board so for this portion it may be best to sit or kneel with them. 

Paddle Boarding With Baby FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions I get asked about paddle boarding with babies. 

What’s The Best Paddle Board For Kids?

For kids below the age of 5 the best paddle board will be the one that they join you on! As they get older you can start considering getting them their own paddle boards. 

We created a list of our Best Kids SUPs based on kids from 5 all the way to preteens. In our research we found the Bluefin Cruise Jr to be the best kids’ paddle board.

Should You Start Your Child Off on a Kayak First?

In an ideal world, if you have a kayak then yes they are a bit more child-proof due to the fact that your kid will feel more enclosed and therefore safer. Bringing your child on a kayak will also give you an idea as to their temperament going out on the water.

What Age Can A Child Paddle Board? 

As outlined above you can start from as young as 8 months old where they have to be accompanies by an adult. Be sure they have the ability to sit up by themselves. This will ensure that they don’t just roll off the side of the board. 

For kids to paddle board by themselves they should be around 4 or 5 based on their comfort on the water.

Are Inflatable SUPs Good For Babies And Toddlers

I would argue (and I may be slightly biased) that inflatable SUPs are the best paddle board to start your young ones off on. The board feels more cushiony and if they happen to lose balance they will not hurt themselves falling over. 

Compare that to say a hard fiberglass board where if you fall onto the hard slippery part. Not only will it hurt more but if your child finds themself off the deck pad the surface will be a lot more slippery.

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Hey, My name is Derek Lenze and I'm the owner of Inflatable SUP Authority. I've had over 20 years experience with watersports and over 10 years of various paddle boarding experience. My new-found passion is bringing my stand up paddle boaring knowledge in an explainable and actionable way all the while giving you my unbiased takes.

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