How Old Do You Have to Be to Paddle Board?

Paddleboarding with your kids could be so much fun! But when can you safely teach them how to paddleboard? How old do they have to be to paddle? Let's find out.

Are you tired of watching your kids spend hours and hours on their electronic devices? You’ve given them access to all the technology available, so maybe now it is time to give them access to something a little less techy. 

Stand-up paddle boarding is a great, family friendly activity. When your kids are young, it’s fun for them to ride on your board. But, as they get older, you’ll want to send them off on their own board, for their own adventures. 

Many parents wonder about the right age for kids to paddle on their own. It’s a fair question. You want your child to be independent, but still want them to be safe. 

In this article, we look at how you can get your kiddos on their own paddle board, when it’s safe for them, and comfortable for you.

How old do you have to be to paddleboard?

man sitting with little child on a paddleboard
Image credits: Derek Owens

The answer to this question really has to do with your comfort level, and your children’s ability to be safe in the water. Paddle boarding on calm waters is a sport that can be accessible to very young children. 

The key to making paddle boarding with your kids fun and stress-free is good safety equipment. This means a Coast Guard approved life jacket and a board leash so your kids can’t get separated from their board or yours.

Toddlers love to ride on paddle boards with mom or dad. This is a great way to get them used to the feel of a board, so that when they are a little older, they can enjoy paddling on their own. 

This is also a good solution for your children before they become confident swimmers. This way you have control and support of your child if something should go amiss.

We’ve seen kids as young as five on their own paddle boards. If your child is a strong swimmer and is ready to be on their own, there is no reason that your kindergartner or first grader can’t have their own paddle board. 

The best way to know if your child is ready for their own board is when they ask for their own. This is a good indication that they are ready for their own SUP adventure.

While your child may be ready for their own SUP, not everyone may be comfortable putting your child on their own board. If you’re renting boards, you may be confined by the rules of the rental shop. 

Many require kids to be at least 13 years old to ride on their own, so even if your child is experienced on a SUP, some rental companies may not allow them to ride on their own. Make sure you check with rental shops about their policies regarding youth borders.

How to safely paddleboard with your kids

dad paddleboarding with his kids
Image credits: Tower Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding with your kids requires a different set of skills and a new thought process. There are a number of safety tips that you should follow to ensure that everyone is safe and is having a good time.

Safety tips when paddleboarding with kids

Here are the tips you need to keep in mind:

  • Everyone should wear a life jacket. That also includes mom and dad. Wearing a life jacket sets a good example for your kids and keeps the entire family safe.
  • Find a day with great weather. Check the forecast before you head out. Even if it’s sunny, it’s important to watch for any signs of wind. They can make paddling harder, and that’s not a good way to make paddleboarding enjoyable for your kids.
  • Know the weight limits of your SUP. If your child is riding with you, you need to make sure your board can handle its own weight, your weight, and the addition of your child. We’ve written an entire guide on the weight limits of paddleboards.
  • Board leashes are a good idea for everyone. If your child falls off the board, at least they won’t get separated from you and the board, and you have a way to pull them back to you.
  • Make sure you’re not the only paddler. If you’re out with your child for the first time, or the 50th time, make sure you’re with a group or at least another paddler. If you have an emergency you don’t want to be alone on the water.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. You have to prepare your child and yourself for the water and weather conditions. This means making sure you put on the right type of clothing to stay warm during any season and condition.

With the safety tips out of the way, here’s a step-by-step guide to teaching your kids how to paddleboard.

Teaching your kids how to paddleboard (step-by-step)

  1. Get your child comfortable in the water. Basic swimming skills is a great first step to making paddleboarding fun for your kids. Your children should have good water awareness, swimming, and water safety skills before you ever put them on your paddleboard or their own paddleboard.
  2. Start on dry land. Let your child stand on your paddleboard when it’s on the beach, before you put them on the water. Even on land, there’s a bit of skill necessary for balancing on the paddleboard. While the feeling isn’t completely the same, on land our children gets to know how the board feels and you can walk through some basic skills without the added challenge of the water.
  3. Start in calm waters. You may LOVE to paddle on white water or in the ocean, but it may not be as fun for your child for their first SUP experience. Find a nice, quiet, calm body of water for your child’s first paddleboarding outing. Besides being relaxing and a great way for them to get comfortable on a board, it’s also a relaxing way for you to learn how to paddle with your child, and help them work on their skills if they are on their own board.
  4. Teach your child how to fall. When you’re on those calm waters, take some time to teach your child how to fall off their board and get back on. This process should include them actually falling from their board and working on getting up on the deck. Work on these skills in shallow water, so your child won’t get scared if they struggle the first few times. Teaching your child how to fall and get back on their board can help them avoid injury or exhaustion if they are in a difficult situation.

What are the benefits of kids paddleboarding?

There are a wealth of benefits to your child from the sport of stand-up paddle boarding. Besides learning to enjoy the outdoors and find entertainment in something that doesn’t have a screen, there are other added benefits to your child from paddle boarding.

First there are the physical benefits which include increased muscle strength that is acquired from balancing on the board, carrying their SUP, and paddling. Then there is the improved balance that is achieved from paddle boarding. Good balance and center is essential for healthy movement.

Second, there are the mental benefits. Learning a skill like paddle boarding improves self-confidence and builds a sense of independence. Also, physical activities give the mind a break from the screen time that so many of our children are so focused on in this day in age.

Final thoughts

It can be hard for parents to find an activity that the whole family can enjoy together. Stand-up paddle boarding seems to be one of those activities that can be enjoyed by every member of your family. It’s also a sport that can provide your child with an activity they can carry with them for their whole life.

If your child is swimming and ready to get out with you on your paddle board, that is the perfect age to start your child learning the skills for paddle boarding.

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Jason Gass

When I'm not working, I spend most of my time camping, hiking, and road-tripping with my wife, my daughter, and my two dogs.