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Teaching a Child to Paddleboard

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If you’re a standup paddleboarding mom or dad of young children, chances are your kids will see you paddleboarding and want to join you in the fun. When you think they’re ready you can stick them on the front of the board and paddle them around. However, in no time they’ll be pushing to paddle on their own. While you may at first be hesitant, here are the steps to to teaching your child to standup paddleboard safely.

1. Your Child Must Know How to Swim and Wear a PFD

Child PFD
Photo © by Susan Sayour
There are two prerequisites to teaching your child to paddleboard. First, they should be able to swim. Kids need to be comfortable in and around water and be able to swim on their own, even though you’ll be right there with them. Secondly, your child must be wearing a PFD. Both of these prerequisites should be nonnegotiable.

2. Choose a Safe Area to Paddle

Paddleboarding with a Child
© by George E. Sayour
Whenever you allow your young child to standup paddleboard it should be in well-protected calm waters. Protected lakes and bays and calm beaches are all fine places to teach your child to paddleboard. There should not be any current, waves, or motorboats in the areas where your are teaching and allowing your son or daughter to paddle.

3. Giving Your Child a Paddleboard Paddle

Child SUP Paddle
© by Getty Images / Stephen Simpson
Its not easy to find a kid-lengthed paddleboard paddle. And unless your child will be paddling with you regularly, you probably don’t have one. You therefore need to adapt one of your paddles to their height and strength. Two options that work well for kid-sized paddles on a paddleboard are canoe paddles or half of a kayak paddle. When all else fails, they will have to use your paddleboard paddle. If you can remove the stem and handle, do that to remove some of the weight. Have them hold the shaft with 2 hands instead of the proper way of placing one hand on top of the paddle handle and the other on the shaft.

4. Have Your Child Start Off Kneeling

A Child Kneels on a Paddleboard
© by George E. Sayour
Place your child on the paddleboard. Don’t make them try to climb up on it by themselves initially. Have them start out kneeling and paddling from that position. This will get allow them to feel comfortable before trying to stand up on the board and paddle.

5. Teach Your Child the Basics of Paddling

Show them the basic mechanics of strokes and steering. While they can’t be expected to get it right at this young age, they should know that if they want to go right, to paddle on the left and vice versa.

6. Instruct Your Child to Standup on the Paddleboard

Child on Paddleboard
© by George E. Sayour
After a little bit of time on their knees, help them to their feet while steadying the paddleboard. Let them try to replicate what they were doing on their knees. Standby as they probably will fall.

7. Enjoy Every Minute of It!

Encourage your kids. Share in their excitement! Sit back and watch with pride as you now have the makings of a lifelong paddler!
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