How to Paddleboard with Kids

Paddleboarding with Kids

Have you tried paddle boarding with your kids yet? Last summer I was able to get out a few times with River, but this summer I wanted to step it up and get out more frequently – and with both kids! We’ve found success, and it’s quickly becoming one of our favorite ways to enjoy life lakeside. Here’s a few tips for paddle boarding with your kids:

  1. PRACTICE IN SHALLOW WATER: Being where you and your kids can touch can help build everyone’s confidence as you adjust to being on the paddle board as a family. Just make sure it’s deep enough for the keel to not scrape the ground! I’ll also add that you should choose a calm day with no chop on the water to practice.

  2. LET YOUR KIDS SLIDE, JUMP, AND FALL OFF: While practicing in the shallower water, have your kids practice sliding off the board, jumping, and potentially falling off. Especially if you’re doing this with nonswimmers (like my toddlers) you want them to feel what it’s like to have the lifejacket support them. I even let Hattie slip off, just so she could experience being on her back in the lifejacket and how quickly mom could get her back upright. This is important for you to because you also want to practice getting them back on the paddle board! The easiest way to get them back on is by grabbing onto the shoulder straps of their lifejackets and gently pull them back onto the paddleboard. If everyone feels more confident with falling in the water, it will make everyone have more fun while they’re out!

  3. SHOW THEM WHERE THEY CAN STAY BALANCED ON THE PADDLE BOARD: I use a hard paddle board from Pau Hana, which means it’s not inflatable. It’s called the Pau Hana Big EZ.  It’s very rigid and stable and takes A LOT to flip. This is what we have at camp and they’re great for living on the lake. They’re also perfect for loading the kids on, and paddling confidently. The downside is that this paddle board is HEAVY. It would also have to go on the roof of the car if I wanted to transport it to a different body of water. I know that inflatable paddle boards are easier to take on the go, but from a stability standpoint, a hard paddle board can’t be beat! My kids can literally crawl all over it, switch sides, and both sit on the same side without it even swaying. Inflatable paddle boards are easier to take on the go, but from a stability standpoint, a hard paddle board can’t be beat! My kids can literally crawl all over it, switch sides, and both sit on the same side without it even swaying.

  4. ENJOY EXPLORING TOGETHER: This is obviously my favorite part of paddle boarding. The lake we live on is very clear and the bay we are in is often very calm. It makes for the perfect paddle boarding conditions with toddlers. While on the water we have seen countless species of fish, including a huge musky (bigger than Hattie!) that we snuck up on and saw up close. We have chased bullfrogs in the lily pads and seen turtles swim below us. We have also said hello to a family of geese. This is by far the best part of paddle boarding – exploring the lake and seeing the different species that call it home.

  5. MOST IMPORTANTLY: EVERYONE NEEDS A LIFEJACKET! I am a great swimmer. I swam competitively from elementary school through high school. I have been a lifeguard, swim instructor, and led trips with kids on canoes, sailboats, and rafts. Regardless of my ability as a swimmer, I’m wearing my lifejacket when I’m on the paddle board with my kids. (Actually, I wear it without the kids too!) There are two reasons why I do this. First, I don’t want to be in a situation where I need to swim us to shore or chase after the paddle board without extra flotation to help me. The likelihood of this is low, but it’s just not worth the risk. There have been so many terrible stories of strong swimmers drowning while trying to help their children with lifejackets on. Second, I am modeling the behavior I want my kids to do. Lifejackets are required for children. I don’t want it to be a struggle to get them to wear their lifejacket, so we make wearing the lifejacket the norm for the whole family.

Being on the paddle board with my kids has been such a fun experience! I like it way more than being in our canoe, because the kids can interact with the water more and can see the wildlife so easily. Being on the paddle board is quickly becoming my kids most requested summer time activity. Do you have plans to get your kids on the water this summer? Are you going to try paddle boarding?

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