Parents | Five Ways to Get Your Kids Stoked on Standup Paddling
Professional SUP Dad Luke Hopkins Shares His Top-5 Tips for Getting Kids into Paddling
Photos and words courtesy of Luke Hopkins and Anne Pagano
Kids love standup paddleboarding. It's pretty much science. Think about it: water + balancing + boardriding. What's not for a kid to love? And the cool part is, if fostered correctly standup paddling can provide your child a healthy, life-long pastime.
Indeed, paddling is a lifestyle sport that can start at a very young age. As the father of two enthusiastic young paddlers I can tell you that with the right encouragement and opportunity, your kids won't be able to get enough of the fit-friendly sport. Here are some surefire tips for you to help give your kids the best SUP experience possible.
1. Face the fear. This tip applies to the parents themselves as well as kids. When introducing a loved one to the sport of paddleboarding, do your best to remove their fear of falling right away, if they have one. If your child is afraid of the water, they're not going to have fun on a SUP. I highly recommend swimming before paddling in order to nip any potential fear factor right away. It's also important to teach your child how to get back on the board. Getting them interested is all about removing negative stigmas associated with falling off a SUP.
2. Teach proper stroke. Teaching your child proper technique is the key to paddling fun and effectively. Make sure every stroke is done with your child's top hand on the grip and the paddle blade facing the proper direction. The lower hand must be far enough down the paddle shaft to provide enough leverage for an effective stroke, but not too low that the child has to bend down to take a stroke. Ideally, the child should be using a kids paddle, depending on their age and height. Adjustable paddles work well so the equipment can grow with the child. A generally acceptable adjustable paddle range is 50 to 65 inches.
3. Set fun goals. Goals are an important part of learning to paddle. "Let's see if we can paddle out to that buoy and touch it," or, "Lets try our best not to fall on this pivot turn." These kinds of challenges make it interesting for the child, and give them tangible feats of progress to aspire to. A little competition never hurt anyone, and it may even drive your kids to get more into the sport.
4. Confidence is king. Celebrate your child's paddling successes every step of the way. "Great job paddling forward." "Great turn!" "Great job making the biggest splash." Once you have them smiling it's easier to keep them going on the water. Your encouragement goes a long way, so celebrate their awesomeness with some kudos. One day they will be better than you on a SUP – and it will happen sooner than you think!
5. Get the right gear. There's nothing is worse for a small child's confidence than having a really long paddle on an adult board. It's like teaching your kids how to walk with your shoes on their feet; it just doesn't work well. Try and find a kid-specific SUP. For example, I designed the Body Glove Kids Cruiser Paddleboard package to be 100-percent built for kids.
Luke Hopkins is a pro athlete, TV show host and winner of multiple paddling medals at the GoPro Mountain Games. He is also the designer of Body Glove's new line of Inflatable Standup Paddleboards.