Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is exploding in popularity all over the world. The sport, which uses a wider, flatter version of a surfboard along with a paddle to navigate on the water, is becoming a favorite with families, too.
My husband, 10-year-old son and I got our first taste of SUP in Florida with East Coast Paddle on the Atlantic Coast. We took a guided tour, which I highly recommend for your first time on a paddleboard, especially if you’ll be in the ocean. Our tour was in the calm, flat water of the Mosquito Lagoon, where waterbirds roosted in mangrove trees, and dolphins, manatees and leaping fish swam next to our boards.
Here’s a video from our trip, along with a Q&A about taking your family stand-up paddleboarding at home or abroad.
How old should kids be to try SUP?
Check with your rental company or tour provider, but most allow small kids to ride on the front of the board while an older kid or adult paddles. Teens and tweens can easily manage paddling a board along with the group.
Where can I try it?
SUP tours can be found in rivers, lakes and oceans around the world. You can find a list of SUP tour companies from Thailand to the UK, including many in the United States and several in Australia, Tower Paddle Boards website. This is just a partial list: Google your desired area and “stand up paddleboarding” to find more.
Does my child need a kid-sized board?
Tweens and teens can use an adult size board, and paddles can be adjusted to suit their height. Call ahead for smaller children who want to use their own board to be sure the tour company can accommodate them. The owners of East Coast Paddle design their own boards and plan to offer kid-sized boards in the near future.
Is it safe?
Paddleboarding in flat water, such as a lake or estuary, is even easier than canoeing. Conquering the surf takes more skill and training. If you’ve got older kids who are good swimmers, a guide can show you how to handle waves and going with a tour group can keep you from biting off more than you can chew.
How difficult is paddleboarding? Do you need to be athletic to try it?
Our group consisted of experience paddleboarders and complete novices (us), but within a few minutes, it was hard to tell the difference. With our guides’ help, we quickly learned how to paddle forward and backward, steer the board and stand up and kneel down safely and easily. Paddling into the wind was more difficult than paddling downwind, but the calm water made for a relaxing, easy experience. Our guide said she has had a wide range of shapes and sizes succeed at paddleboarding.
What kind of equipment or supplies do I need?
A rental or tour company will provide the board, paddle and, depending on where you plan to go, a personal flotation device/life jacket. If you plan to rent rather than take a tour, find out if your rental company provides transportation to get the boards where you plan to use them. Don’t plan to carry the boards a long distance, as they are bigger and heavier than surfboards. You’ll want to have water and sunscreen. It’s not necessary to wear shoes, but water shoes are a good option for protecting your feet as you get in and out of the water.
Alisson Clark is a freelance writer and mother of a tween son. She lives with her husband (and one gigantic dog) in Florida, where she writes for magazines, newspapers and GeekMom.com covering theme parks, off-the-beaten-bath destinations and more.