You don't have to go far to have fun with kids on paddleboards. The key is in the preparation, says Ali Wood

Paddleboarding with the whole family is great fun, but as every parent knows, nothing spoils a day out quicker than cold, wet, hungry kids. Here are some of the things we’ve learned from taking our 4, 7 and 9-year-old out on the water in Dorset.

1. Pack the night before

Give each person their own IKEA-type bag for gear, and take a separate dry bag for bringing wet gear home. Having individual bags speeds up the time on the beach – especially when you’ve got 50 different bits of gear for a family of 5! 

Pack a bag for each family member. It makes changing afterwards so much easier

2. Allow double the time you think you need

However long you think it’s going to take you to get ready, allow double. This is especially important if you’re trying to catch the tide. 

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3. Keep hands and feet warm

Rubber gloves (ie. Marigolds) give extra warmth under neoprene ones. My kids wear Gubberloves latex gloves underneath a pair of sailing, diving or regular ski gloves. They come in two sizes (2-5 and 6-9).

A trick I learnt from winter sailing – rubber gloves under sailing gloves!

Warm feet are also essential. A pair of woolly hiking socks are effective under wetsuit boots or shoes. 

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4. Choose a launch area for the whole family

Pick a launch spot with lots of space and interest for kids so they can play while you’re blowing up boards (or better still, get them to blow up the boards themselves!). Take a football, buckets and spades, a picnic rug and chairs for spectators. A beach tent is also really handy for getting changed in and warming up afterwards. 

Mudeford Quay in Dorset – one of our favourite places to set up SUP camp! Here, we’re about to go out on Red’s kids Snapper board and Compact 9’6

5. Pump up the board before you put on your wetsuit

Don’t put your wetsuit on until you’ve blown up the board. Pumping is hot, thirsty work! To save energy (and your back) you might wish to invest in an electric pump you can plug into your car or boat. Note, these don’t tend to be any quicker (around 6-10 minutes to manually inflate a SUP, depending on the pump type, and 10-20 minutes to do it with an electric pump). 

Pumping up the Spinera Light 10’6 at Mudeford in Christchurch, Dorset

6. Check the tide and wind

Check the tide and wind. Anything over 10 knots is going to be tough. If possible, paddle into the wind and tide first so that coming back is easier. My favourite website for checking the wind is 

7. Let adults launch first

If kids are paddling separately don’t let them launch until you’re already on the water.  You can drift quickly on a SUP before you get the momentum from the first stroke.

My son on the Red Paddle Co Snapper SUP for kids. Make sure adults are ready to launch before kids just in case they get whisked off by the wind and tide!

Also, don’t forget to put the leash around your ankle (easily done) and ensure the youngsters are wearing kids lifejackets.

8. Give the kids their own paddle

Rather than just having your child as a ‘passenger’ give them their own paddle. You can buy these separately. Red Paddle Co does a paddle especially for kids, which extends from 130cm to 170cm. Note the ideal paddling height is a hand’s length above your head. If the kids are paddling too they’ll stay warm, have more fun and it certainly helps you out!

9. Let the kids paddle the adults

Another fun thing to do is to let the kids paddle the adults. We find the Oppie Single Handed Oar (which the kids use for dinghy sailing) can be helpful for a bit of secret ‘adult steerage’ whilst sitting on the board.

Let the kids paddle and enjoy the ride (backwards, forwards, sideways… who cares!?)

10. Land ashore for a picnic and some fun

Take a drybag with a frisby, fleece, microfibre towel, water, snacks and a hot drink. It’s always fun to ‘land’ somewhere, even if just a 10-minute paddle away, for a Swallows and Amazons-type adventure.

The best bit about paddleboarding with kids – landing on a beach and messing around. We always take our Red quick-dry towel and flask of hot chocolate

I love hotdogs or pasta stored in a food flask. and am a big fan of Red Original’s insulated stainless steel flask, which is a decent size for hot chocolate, water or even a whole bottle of wine!

A 20 or 30-litre drybag is a good size to take on a SUP. I also keep a huge Musto 65l bag in the car for transporting five soggy wetsuits home afterwards.

The Paddleboard Bible

Finally, whether you’re planning your first family paddleboard, or are a seasoned SUP-er looking to widen your adventures, you can’t go far wrong with a copy of the Paddleboard Bible by Dave Price.

Further reading…

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