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Tips for Paddleboarding with a Child on the Board

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If you’re a standup paddleboarding parent, you know the tension between desiring to involve your kids in the sport you love while at the same time being able to paddle at the high level you’re used to. Even if you are able to strike a balance between the two either by bringing them along only when they’re old enough to keep up or by setting aside time to take out the young ones, chances are your kids still want to paddleboard with you whenever you go. Here’s some tips on how to take your young child on the paddleboard with you, at least some of the time.

1. Ensure You Are Stable on Your Paddleboard

Autumn Paddleboarding
© by Getty Images / Paul Hawkings
Before you take your child paddleboarding with you, you should of course make sure you are stable paddling the board around by yourself. After all, how can you expect to paddle with an extra 40 to 50 pounds on the board if you can hardly paddle yourself around. So learn to paddleboard proficiently before you take a child on the paddleboard with you.

2. Is Your Paddleboard Large and Buoyant Enough?

Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Sign
Photo © by George E. Sayour

Paddleboards are rated for a certain paddler weight. If you’re too light for the paddleboard turning and steering will be affected. If you’re too heavy for your board balance will be an issue and you’ll feel unstable. Obviously, adding a child to the board can push you over the limit, affecting the stability of the paddleboard.

3. Choose a Safe Place to Paddleboard

Paddleboarding with Child
Photo © by George E. Sayour
It is really common sense, but you should only paddleboard with a child on your board in protected water conditions. Small lakes, calm beaches, and protected bays are all great options to take your child paddleboarding. You want to make sure if and when you fall off the board, you are able to quickly locate and get to your child. Therefore, stay away from places with waves and currents when paddling with your kid.

4. Your Child Must Wear a PFD When Paddleboarding With You

Child PFD
Photo © by Susan Sayour

The first rule of PFDs for paddlers is to always wear it. However, since paddleboarding also has a surfing influence, this mentality has not filtered into this relatively new sport at a mainstream level. Consequently, most standup paddleboarders don’t wear a PFD when paddling. While that is a personal decision you can make for yourself, this should not be compromised when it comes to youth. All kids should wear a PFD while paddleboarding.

Even if your child can swim a lot of things can happen. If the board tips over, it can hit them on the head, or they can become momentarily trapped under the board. While paddling, you might accidently hit your child in the head with the paddle. A child could swallow water from a wave. Any one of these things can render an otherwise good swimming child into a helpless situation. Therefore, they need to be wearing a PFD when paddleboarding.

5. Your Child Must Be able to Swim Before Putting them on a Paddleboard

Unlike in kayaking, the chances of falling off of your watercraft is exacerbated when it comes to standup paddleboarding. It is therefore essential that your young child know how to swim, even though they will be wearing a PFD. PFDs don’t always float kids right side up. Your child should be comfortable in the water and be able to swim prior to sticking them on your paddleboard.

6. Place the Child in a Seated Position on the Paddleboard First

Don’t try to get on your paddleboard and then have try to maneuver the child onto it. Situate the child comfortably on the paddleboard first. Have them sit down. You can encourage and let them move around and go from the seated to kneeling position to allow them to get used to being on the paddleboard and not to fear its tippyness. Once the child is comfortable, have them sit down front of center of the board.

7. Start Off Paddling While Kneeling Down

Climb on the board from the back and move your way up to where you will be standing. Start off by kneeling down and paddling to ensure you and your child are comfortable with the balance, motion, and tippyness. You’ll need to find the best balance point. It is probably best to have your child in front of where you normally stand on the board and you will position yourself a little behind where you normally stand. Every board will be different, however, so make sure both you and your child are comfortably on the board and paddling around with control before you stand up. Once standing, take it easy and progress as you’re able.

8. Have Fun!

Enjoy these moments together. It won't be long before you are teaching your child to paddle their own board.
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