Paddleboarding with Kids

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Since you’ve gotten kids your probably miss paddle boarding don’t you? Or maybe you are just interested in paddleboarding with kids and making it a new fun family activity. 

While it certainly looks cool when you see a whole family harmoniously paddling in unison. You should realize it takes a lot of work to get to that point. 

And ontop of that fact you have to realize that some kids have different tolerances to others. 

But don’t worry, we’ll guide you by the hand like any good adult would, and show you exactly how to paddle board with your kids. Making it safe and fun for all parties involved!

If you are looking for our Best Kids Paddle Boards check out our in depth review guide!

Benefits to Paddleboarding with Kids

mom son paddle board

There is a lot of benefits to paddle boarding with your kids. 

Paddle boarding has also helped children with Autism Spectrum Disorder with multi system delays. The study found that the child was able to increase their session duration from 1 minute 49 seconds to 7 minutes and 42 seconds by the 7th session! As well as gradually increase their attention span in predetermined tests. 

What You Need to Paddle Board with Kids

Have I got you convinced yet? Ok good! Before we go out and try to paddle board with our kids there is some necessary equipment you will need. 

Paddle Board

Duh!! Well wait just a second here. Before you roll your eyes at a list that looks obvious there are a few things you need to understand. 

If You Have Your Child on as a Passenger: You want a board that is at least 10’6” long and 32” wide. In my opinion the longer the better. Boards such as the Nixy Monterey are fantastic for this as it’s 116”’ length coupled with its 34” width makes it much easier to balance and stand on. Even when kids are shuffling about.

Thursosurf Prodigy

Your Kids Having their Own SUP: If your kid is expressing the need for their own paddle board then look for something that has a higher weight capacity then their height. On a whole smaller 7’6” boards like the Thursosurf Prodigy are better equipped for smaller framed/ younger children while bigger boards like the Nautical Kids are better for taller/ older kids. 

Kids Paddle

Your paddle board paddle will be too big and clunky for your child to properly maneuver their own boards. So its best that you get a kids designated paddle for them. 

Thankfully most kids SUPs do come with kids paddles. But if you are looking for something more lightweight take a look at Red Paddle kids paddles. The lighter the better!

You can use some adult SUP paddles if you take out the middle portion of the 3 piece paddle. But even still the blade of the paddle may still be too cumbersome for them to do proper paddling strokes. 

SUP Leash

SUP leashes are of even greater importance when paddling with your child. The simple fact is children are not as efficient at swimming as adults because A) they have not practiced it as much and B) their small limbs are smaller so it takes more effort on their part to swim back. 

When you have a SUP leash and your kid falls into the water all they have to do is tug the board back with their foot and the board will come back to them. Of course, this has to be paired with a child’s PFD

Kids Life Vest

On inflatable SUP Authority we are pretty repetitive when we talk about wearing life vests. But in this case it’s definitely something you should not ignore. 

The most important thing is having a life vest that actually fits them! The below video guides you through things to look for in a kids life vest. 

Dry Bag With Following Items

You will be using a dry bag as you go for longer paddling excursions with your child. Here’s what you should bring. 

  • Water, and lots of it!
  • Snacks or a lunch in a small soft cooler
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray

A Toy

Chances are if you have a child on your board you want to keep them occupied. You can use things such as a snorkel mask to look in the water, a toy shovel or spanner for them to help you paddle or a net to catch little creatures that you may find on the surface. 

You can also strap a little toy bucket to the front of the board to alow you child to collect whatever they find in the water. Just be sure to release them when they are done!

The Evolution of Paddle Boarding with Your Kids 

Before even completing any of the below progressions and steps there is one single thing that will make this a lot easier on the both of you. And that is exposing your kid to water from an early age. 

And no I’m not just talking about throwing them into the water and letting them figure it out. That’s cruel and is enough to scar any kid. You want to slowly introduce them to the water by inviting them to play in the shallows. This guide is a good start to give you ideas on how to introduce your child to water

Paddling With Toddlers and Younger Children

At this stage you want to introduce them slowly to the board. We show you how to do this below. 

When paddling with toddlers and younger children you will have them start off on the front of  your board. This way you get a good view of them and you can anticipate their movements better when they move from one side to the other. To keep them entertained, have some toys that allow them to interact with their environment such as a shovel, net or bucket.

To see the complete set of steps read our Paddle Boarding with a Baby step by step guide.

Ages 5 and Up

This is the age where your child will start to decide their own paddle boarding destiny. Are they content sitting on the board with you being a passenger or do you see them start to express that they want their own board to paddle and control? 

Some kids are more ready then others so its important not to rush things. If your child does express that they want a board of their own we have a handy little list of our favorite kids SUPs

As a rule of thumb look for a board between the sizes of 7 – 9’ in length and something that is narrower. Anything from 27” to 30” should be sufficient. The bigger frame your child is the longer and wider you go with a SUP

Pre-Teens and Up

This is where things will get a bit more tricky for you. Do you use a smaller adult SUP or do you get a kids SUP for a few years? 

The answer will ultimately depend on the size and age of your kid (can you even call them that anymore with how tall they are growing!?). Towards the late pre-teen stages of growth it’s probably best to get them a 10’ lightweight adult SUP like the iRocker All Around 10

If they are taller then you may have to jump straight into an 10’6” or 11’ SUP like the Nixy Newport or the iRocker All Around 11 Ultra boards

Shorter kids with a smaller stature can get away with paddling 9’ boards for a while. In fact, even smaller adults can paddle them! SUPs like the Atoll Youth SUP or the iRocker Nautical Kids are good SUPs that fit those dimensions. 

The Step by Step Guide on How to Paddle Board with Kids

Now that you understand which SUPs are for what types of children an the accessories you need we will go into exactly how to introduce your child to paddle boarding. 

Step 1: Get them Exposed as Early as Possible

We already touched on this above but your childs enjoyment on a SUP will be directly correlated to how comfortable they are on and in the water. If a child does not have a lot of water experience and falls in they will panic which can ultimately cut the trip short. 

Some tidbits to what I enjoyed as a kid was exploring the water at my own pace. I personally hated swimming lessons with a passion because I often felt like they just rushed you in. My enjoyment of the water came later when I started swimming in my pool and in the ocean at my own pace and leisure.” 

– Editors Notes

Step 2: Get them Comfortable on Your Board

The first step to getting your children comfortable on your board is to introduce them to it on land. Just like with paddle boarding with your dog, you want to introduce your kids to your board in your home or backyard. Let them climb aboard it and explore it. Get them excited for their first SUP journey!

Step 3: Start off in Shallow Water or a Controlled Environment

Okay it’s time! This is the part where you are actually going to put the paddle board in the water! But hold off, you aren’t going to go on a great SUP excursion just yet! 

First you have to get your child on the SUP to get them comfortable. Start off with them sitting or kneeling. They will have the best balance this way and will actually be able to have more control over the board. This can be done in a shallow lake or a pool. 

You can advance a bit further by holding the board and gently simulating some conditions such as gently rocking the board from side to side. Just make sure you let them know before doing it!

Step 4: Practice Board Handling and Maneuvering 

If you want your child to SUP with you on some paddling adventures then they will have to learn how to paddle the board. Some of the most basic maneuvers are 

  • Paddling Straight
  • Turning the board

That’s about it! You don’t need to do any fancy maneuvers like pivot turns. And because they have a board of their own that’s better suited to their dimensions. Its easier for them to maneuver the board. 

We are still in the training wheels stage so make sure that the conditions are calm. There should be little wind, no current, and no tide movements.

Step 5: Practice SUP and Water Safety

As soon as they get comfortable figuring out paddling maneuvers and feeling more confident on the board. Get them to jump off! This can be a little scary for kids at first, but once they do this they will be doing it all the time!

The safe way to fall off a paddle board is to the side. When practiing this be sure that:

  1. They are in deep enough water so they don’t injure themselves
  2. Make sure they jump off the side of the board
  3. Be out there with them just to make them feel safe
  4. Of course make sure their PFD and leash is on at all times

Here is a video for visual representation

Step 6: When they Are Comfortable Get Them to Stand

Once they have mastered controlling the board and safety tips it’s not time to get them to stand up on the board! With your supervision of course. 

Make sure you do this step in calm water conditions. Ideally you should be on your own board supervising and making sure everything is alright. Your main job is to keep a calm presence and keep them from getting discouraged. 

Step 7: This Won’t All Be Achieved in a Day

I can’t tell you how long this will take because every child has different temperaments. But what I can tell you is the likeness that all oof these steps will happen in one day will be relatively slim. Unless your kid is the next Laird Hamilton that is! 

All of these steps will take a few days on the water, give it time and be patient and everything should fall into place. 

Another tip I wanted to mention is that after each SUP session you should end things on a high note. What I mean by this is that once your kid is having the most fun they could be having its time ti start wrapping things up. 

Ending SUP sessions on a high will encourage your child to want to keep going on the water the next time! 

Got any tips on how to SUP with your kid? Let us know on our Facebook Page!

Photo of author
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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