Words by Rebecca Parsons

Children are our future.

This statement is so simple and so complex all at once. Over 350,000 babies are born each day and as a result, the world is constantly changing, evolving, and growing. With each of these births comes so much potential for good and it’s our responsibility to provide them with the tools they need to better our planet.

Like many beautiful things, SUPKids began accidentally.

Kids around the world are learning to paddle and about the importance of environmentalism. Photo: Georgia Schofield

Linzi Hawkin spent her youth surfing in Jersey, UK, but began teaching SUP on a trip to Australia in 2014. While down under, Hawkin was connected to the Royal Flying Doctor, a non-profit organization that provides healthcare services to individuals living in rural regions of Australia. She went on tour across Cape York with the organization, teaching SUP and environmental education to aboriginal and remote communities.

On the second year of touring, Hawkin received an email from Starboard expressing interest in her program. After a meeting in Thailand, Hawkin developed a partnership with the environmentally-minded company and just like that, SUPKids was born.

Spreading the SUP stoke around the globe. Photo: Adam Finer

After developing a curriculum and teaching resources, Hawkin traveled and taught others how to start their own SUPKids program. But when that became unsustainable, she made the teaching materials available online. With the help of Starboard, the program spread like wildfire–there are now 28 schools in 18 different countries across the globe and teaching materials have been translated into 8 different languages.

SUPKids is available as a 5-week program, 5-day summer camp, or as a condensed single-day program. The program focuses on five core lessons: Safe SUP, SUP Adventures, Ocean Plastics, Healthy SUP Kids and Ambassador for the Planet.

It’s never too early to start teaching kids SUP yoga. Photo: Georgia Schofield

Safe SUP focuses on teaching kids basic safe SUP practices. SUP Adventures strives to make kids aware of the adventures available in their own backyard, if only they choose to peel their eyes away from screens for a moment. Ocean Plastics focuses on plastics as a threat to the ocean environment and involves kids in trash pickups to leave the water cleaner than they found it.

Healthy SUP Kids engages kids in yoga and fitness routines, as well as teaching kids that a healthier lifestyle is not only good for your body, but good for the planet as well. The final lesson encourages kids to pick a cause they are interested in and find a way to raise awareness and make a difference.

"We want to make sure that we leave a legacy with the program and that kids walk away with a bit of a plan for what they want to do next,” said Hawkin. 

The program consists of both paddling and educational classes. Photo: Georgia Schofield

SUPKids is currently available for kids ages 5-12, with the hope of adding programs for teens in the future. Unlike other youth programs, SUPKids is not focused on racing or competition but is instead focused on inclusiveness and building self-esteem.

"With SUP, you know that every single kid is going to have an absolute blast," said Hawkin. "Everyone's going to feel included and everyone's going to get it straight away. In terms of boosting kids self-esteem and confidence, it's phenomenal."

SUPKids makes learning water safety fun. Photo: Eliane Droemer

In addition to getting kids on the water, SUPKids is committed to giving back. They're passionate about delivering their programs to kids who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to paddle. To make this happen, a portion of every SUPKids licensing fee goes to their Giving Back programs.

SUPKids is also partnered with the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar and as a result, one mangrove is planted for every kid that partakes in the program. Additionally, SUPKids is partnered with a number of NGO's, non-profits and B-corps, all of which do amazing work around the world.

"The idea that we can plant some seeds with these kids and have them start thinking about the environment in a different way is amazing," said Hawkin. "It's so awesome to see the impact that we can have."


Watch: Zane Schweitzer takes Hawaii’s groms SUP surfing on a giant board.

Another SUP program making a difference in the lives of kids in Mexico.