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!
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).
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.
- Buy a Pro Kids Changing Robe from Red Original
- Search for touring, kids or all-round boards from Red Paddle Co
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).
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 windy.com
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.
Also, don’t forget to put the leash around your ankle (easily done) and ensure the youngsters are wearing kids lifejackets.
- Buy a Helly Hansen Kids Safe lifejacket
- Buy an adult buoyancy aid from Decathlon
- Buy a dog buoyancy aid from Red Original
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.
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.
- Buy a Red Original stainless steel drinks bottle
- Buy a Red Original quick-dry microfibre towel
- Buy an Overboard drybag from Amazon
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.
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- Thinking of taking your kids wild swimming? Here’s everything you need to know
- Paddleboarding with your dog? A dog buoyancy aid comes in really handy!
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This feature appeared in Practical Boat Owner magazine. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.
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