Stand-up paddling isn’t just gaining popularity with adults; it is also extremely fun for kids and a fantastic way to introduce an exciting form of cross training while having fun out on the water.
Whether your child is athletically inclined or not, stand-up paddling can be enjoyed by children of all ages and the benefits are numerous.
Besides being extremely fun, paddling an SUP also works on the child’s balance, coordination, fitness level and confidence.
There are several different boards that work well for kids but as a general rule they will have the easiest time paddling a board that is eight to nine feet long or less.
A shorter and wider board will be more stable and easier for them to paddle and turn if they are paddling solo. That being said, I know of lot’s of kids age 7 and up who have done just fine on an 11′ board. The longer board will be a little trickier for them to paddle at first but also gives them some growing room.
Inflatable SUP’s are ideal for kids because they are lightweight, easy to carry and a little softer, which helps soften the landing for falls.
First Time Out
There are lots of SUP lessons for kids these days and this can be a great way to get some proper instruction and build their confidence to go out solo.
However if you are an experienced stand-up paddler you can always take your child out with you on the same board to get them comfortable.
You will know your child best… some kids are okay to head out solo the first time, others will need to work up to it.
When going out solo, hold the board steady for your child and ask them to kneel on the center of the board. Paddling in the kneeling position is a great way to get used to the feel of the SUP and will feel much more stable.
When your child is comfortable tell them to try standing up slowly. If they are uncomfortable they just have to kneel back down. This will be far easier if their first time out is in very calm water.
It’s a new skill and does require some practice. Once they are comfortable on the board they should then learn the basics.
The Basic Moves
Once a kid is feeling good standing up on the SUP then they can practice a few basic moves such as:
- accelerating and decelerating
- falling and jumping off the board
- getting back on the board in deep water
Paddling on a calm lake is going to be a bit of a different experience than paddling in ocean surf but each of the above skills should still be learned no matter the environment.
Having the confidence to not only paddle the board but to get on and off the board in the water will make them feel far more comfortable and safe.
1. Have a spotter. It’s a good idea to either have an adult in the water or on a board close to the child. The spotter can make sure that everyone is paying attention and comfortable.
If you are on your own board stay close to the child. Bringing along a rope or tow line is a great idea, should your child get tired or scared, you can tow them back to shore.
2. Start on flat calm water. Choose a location that has calm water and is not too busy. This will not only help keep the board more stable but there will be less distractions as well.
3. A lifejacket and a board leash are essential. The lease will attach to the childs ankle and to the board.
If they should fall or jump in, the leash will make sure they do not lose their board. A straight 10-foot leash is perfect for most kids.
4. Make sure the paddle fits their size. A paddle that is too long or that has a shaft that is too big will be much more difficult for a child to use as well as quite heavy. There are several great SUP paddles for kids available.
An adjustable paddle is ideal as you can lengthen it as the child grows.
When the paddle is standing on its handle, the point where the blade fans out from the shaft should be at the childs eye level.
Kid’s paddling mostly in flat water may want an extra inch or two on the paddle. Kid’s paddling mostly in surf will want the paddle an inch or two shorter.
5. Remember sun block. The reflection off the water can cause some very serious and quick burns.
Improved Athletic Skills
One of the great things about stand-up paddling is that it requires the practice of quite a few athletic skills while still providing an extreme amount of fun.
Many kids who compete in other sports are finding that stand-up paddling is improving their overall athletic skill level.
The reason is because stand-up paddling provides a cross training that helps to improve balance, coordination, endurance, as well as improve overall strength.
Even if you are not paddling, simply standing on the board works on your balance skills.
When paddling all the muscle groups are engaged. The legs are almost always slightly bent and the shoulders, upper back, chest, arms and core muscles must all work together in order to move and control the board.
The coordination required to not only stand but to paddle and turn at the same time is helpful with many other sporting activities.
Kids who have accomplished the sport of stand-up paddling tend to have a better overall body awareness and more fine tuned athletic capabilities.
However the best part is that because it is so much fun, it doesn’t feel like work. Your child does not have to be athletically inclined to enjoy and succeed at stand-up paddling but their skills will be improved upon without them even realizing it.
It can be quite expensive to buy a SUP for each child. To save money, families can share one or two boards.
1 or 2 kids can go out at the same time or adults can paddle with a child sitting on the board with them.
This is very common and unless your child wants to take up stand-up paddling seriously, probably the best and most economical route.
Adults as well as kids can easily enjoy a shorter board. Just make sure you have a couple of adjustable paddles that will suit everyone’s height.
Inflatable SUP’s For Kids
Technically a kid could use any inflatable SUP. Younger children can sit on your board while you paddle if you are comfortable with that. Older children probably will want to paddle by themselves.
However there are several SUP’s designed specifically for kids. Inflatable’s are ideal because they have more cushion for falling, are stable, light weight, easy for a kid to carry as well as more affordable.
They can also be stored away in small spaces and transported in the trunk of your car.
From what I have found Amazon.com continues to have the best selection and prices on inflatable SUP’s for kids.