Kids and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
April 15, 2016 | By Paige Bakhaus | In Paddle Board (SUP)
There’s no doubt about it, stand up paddling is here to stay. It is still the fasted growing sport on the planet and by the looks of all the boards on the water, in every commercial on TV, and on top of so many cars driving down the road, the trend isn’t about to slow anytime soon. And one of the things I love most about this sport is that I see more and more people of all ages trying it. It’s no secret that our section of Florida is known for its older population so I don’t think I will be offending most of my readers when I say that a lot of you were reluctant to try stand up paddle boarding in the beginning. But I have to give you credit now…you folks are coming around! You’ve seen your grandkids do it, or your own kids, or your friends…and you’ve decided “dang it, I can do this too”! It’s not uncommon for me to teach a group of 70 somethings. Or even some in their 80’s. That’s one of the things I love about stand up paddling is the way it makes everyone feel like a kid again, no matter their age.
But no matter how much I love seeing older adults getting into paddling, there is no doubt that the youth are the future of our sport. Moms and their small children is the fastest growing segment of paddle boarders, and that is creating a new generation of very young children who paddle or want to learn to paddle either because they want to copy their parents or it’s something all their friends do so they want to learn too. And I believe we should do all we can to encourage that and nurture their little saltwater souls!
What age is too young for stand up paddling? I would never answer that question with an absolute number just like I would never say how old is too old. SUP (stand up paddle) isn’t about age limits… it’s about freedom… being the captain of your own ship… feeling that first glide. Yes, we have to watch out for them, teach them properly, make sure they don’t get hurt, but we also have to let them spread their wings, test their abilities and find out their limitations, and feel wild and free in the ocean. Children who live in this area have an opportunity to experience a life that too many don’t appreciate. If SUP is the vehicle that gets them on the water and loving and protecting the environment in which they live, then I think we should do whatever we can to encourage that at any age.
I know plenty of kids who do a great job paddling by themselves at 5 or 6 years old. Then again I know a lot of kids that age who aren’t even close to being able to paddle alone. Motor skills, maturity levels, muscle development, and willingness or ability to follow directions are going to be different in all children even of the same ages. But you might be surprised to know that it’s not uncommon these days to see kids as young as 6- 8 years old easily paddling 1 to 3 miles at local paddleboard races or just out for a fun paddle with their parents. I even know an 11 year old that paddled 31 miles on a tandem board with his dad last year and they came in 2nd place!
So if a child is asking to try SUP, at any age, the first step is for the parent to decide if they are comfortable allowing their child to give it a try. After that, if the parent doesn’t have their own paddle board and proper equipment and knowledge, then they need to find a Certified Paddle Board Instructor who will give the child private lessons, or an experienced Kids Summer Paddle Camp with Certified Instructors. The number one pre-requisite for all paddle camps should be that your child can swim, and they should be swim tested the first day to determine their abilities. Paddle camps will vary by price, ages allowed, curriculum, and length, but the major goals should be the same- to give them proper training, the right equipment, a safe environment, positive re-enforcement, and help when they need it. In return the kids learn independence, self-confidence, team work, and all the other things that come with spending a week playing in and loving the ocean. Send them to paddle camp, I promise you will get back a healthier, happier, stronger, more confident (and very tired!) kid at the end of the week!
Hooked On SUP is in our 5th year of business and our 3rd year of teaching Kids Summer Paddle Camps for ages 7-12 yrs and weekly camps run all summer. Stand Up Paddling & Kayaking skills, water safety, paddle games, fishing catch and release, species identification, shark tooth and fossil hunting, beach play, pool cook out. All instructors are PaddleFit Level 2 or Level 3, World Paddle Association, Florida Master Naturalists, CPR & AED Certified. Cost is $195 per week. Sign up online at www.HookedOnSup.com or call 941-504-1699 for more info.
Water Safety for Kids – Checklist for Paddleboarding Parents
Infographic courtesy of InflatableBoarder.com