Paddled with the kids – a mom’s guide
Taking the kids paddling can be a fantastic adventure but it does require planning. A day on the water, working as a team helps kids connect with their surroundings and you. As a mother of three little paddlers and a former Paramedic, I know preparation is key when engaging in watersports. Don’t forget – your kids need to be able to swim before even considering getting on a board with you.
I have broken this guide into three phases: Preparation, Getting wet, and Having fun.
The essentials – sunblock, food, and camera. Pretty much the same for any mom. Most of us moms lather our kids pretty good with sunblock, so I am sure you have plenty. Don’t forget their ears, around their neck and under their nose – there is reflection off of the water and the board and you want to make sure these places are properly covered. This goes for you, too. Snacks are always good, but water is essential since paddling will work you out making it easy for you (not just the kids) to get dehydrated. Normally, I would recommend a Camelback but you will be wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) – wearing both is awkward if not impossible so you probably need to go down the refillable water bottle route instead.
And of course, the phone/camera. You are going to want to take some great photos of the kids but it is also a great safety device in case something goes wrong. I like to keep the phone in a water-tight container that allows you to use it. I attach it to the board so anyone, including the kids, can use it. There are many waterproof bags available on the internet. Also, you need to carry all these essentials plus your wallet and keys – I recommend buying a dry sack for boating for all your stuff that you can attach to your board. Try to get one at least 20L in size.
2. GETTING WET
Board size – you need to consider the weight of your little guys when choosing your board at purchase if they will be onboard with you. They don’t normally weigh much but make sure your board can handle all of you appropriately. They are getting bigger everyday so consider how long you plan on using the board with you and your little crew.
If your child is paddling on their own board you may want to consider bringing a piece of rope. In case of high winds or they just plain tire out, you can tow them in by attaching their board to yours – been there done that… killer workout!
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) – you all need them. Well, technically only the kids 16 and under need them and they must be the over the shoulder, buoyant foam. You should be aware that manual inflatable or waist only PFDs are not allowed for those 16 and under. And they shouldn’t be used for mom, either. In an emergency, you may not have the wherewithal to inflate your PFD so it is better to be safe and have one that is ready to use. Plus, if you wear one, the kids have no choice but to wear one. End of discussion. And Don’t forget leashes! Please make sure the kids have a leash that attaches to your board. If you have more than one child with you make sure they both have leashes on in the event something happens to you. This way, they can still get to the board safely. Please make sure they understand that the board is “BASE” and this is where you want to return to for safety after any fall into the water.
Safe unloading – ok, you have your board, the PFDs, the paddle, the sunblock… all that stuff to haul from the car to the water. And the kids. It isn’t always easy but you are probably going to have to do most of the heavy lifting. I like to put the PFDs and the leashes on the kids at the car – I attach the leash to their PFDs so they don’t drag on the ground. I put on my PFD and leash as well. That way, I have only the board, paddle, and bag to carry, which is a bit of a challenge as I need to watch the kids get from the parking lot to the water. Try to go in the early mornings when there isn’t as large of a crowd or bring a friend.
Water safety – Once we are at the water, I suggest you start your paddle with everybody getting wet so that “concern” is out-of-the-way. Next take a few minutes to practice getting back on the board with their life jackets (pfds) on – it’s a lot different feeling getting back on the board in a bulky life jacket. Allowing them to experience this in a non emergency situation is key to success should anything go wrong. Remind them where “BASE” is (the board) and that they should stay on base unless you tell them to jump off.
Then practice paddling with the kids in a safe area. You may want to practice a bit because having small children on your board for the first time can throw you off balance quickly as the kids will get excited and shift their weight from side to side to look at things! Kids can sit in front, behind or both. I prefer to have them in front of me so I can see them at all times. Practice bringing your paddle up and over, making sure to clear little heads, this will change up your stroke a little.
Weather Conditions – Check the weather, especially the wind conditions before you take off. I recommend paddling into the wind on the way out, so that on your return paddle when you are the most tired you will have the wind at your back. One thing about water… the conditions are always changing. Teaching kids to be prepared and adapt to ever changing water conditions is a great life skill. When paddling with kids if you DO get into an unsafe wind condition find the NEAREST land possible and call for help or wait out the weather. Don’t worry about trying to paddle to your starting point.
3. HAVING FUN
Ok, we spent a lot of this blog going over preparation and getting wet. Now, let’s talk about why you are doing this in the first place – Having Fun! You can find an abundant amount of wildlife on the water, which, on a paddleboard, allows you to get very close to without them running or flying away. We have seen all kinds of birds, fish, and turtles. Be sure to take the time to just sit on the board with your feet in the water and enjoy the view. As all of us paddlers know, the view is always better from the water! Starting kids early to love the outdoors and being on the water is something they will cherish forever.
And finally, as with all paddles, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and what your expected paddling time will be. Not only is it good safety tip, but your might peak their interest to join you!
See you on the water…