Paddle boarding: How young is too young, how old is too old?

Paddle boarding is an exciting and challenging sport for all ages. Just like biking, safety equipment and features (e.g., helmet, training wheels, etc.) as well as intensity can all be tailored to the age and experience of the participant. Whether young or old, anyone can find the right level of SUP adventure for them.

Technically, three years is the youngest we’re comfortable with at Downunder (that’s when children have developed the ability to reason,) and we have paddlers well into their 80’s paddle with us. With the right training and equipment, anyone of any age can do it.

While young children can absolutely have fun on the water, their safety is critical. The key is preparation. Here’s a few things to consider:

  1. A properly fitted life jacket
    • Infant and child life jackets should have a strap that buckles through the legs.
    • All life jackets should not come up above the child’s head at any time
    • Before the child goes out on the water, a guardian should perform a “life jacket test” by tugging on the shoulder straps of the jacket and ensuring that it stays properly in place.
    • Floaties can also add additional buoyancy and can be useful if the child is particularly nervous about going on the water.
  2. How to start
    • An experienced parent or guardian should first bring the child out on the front of their own board.
    • The child can begin sitting and progress to kneeling and eventually paddling.
    • When a child is old and strong enough to maneuver their own board, they will already be comfortable on the water and familiar with how to balance on and paddle the board.
    • Paddle board camps are a great option and a way to form lasting friendships while developing their paddling skills.
  3. Let them know what to expect
    • Before a child goes out on the water, they should also be aware of where they are going and how long they will be out.
    • Briefing the child on what to do if they fall will also help prepare them for any circumstances or conditions they may encounter.
    • They should know not to panic, to allow their life jacket to bring them to the surface, and to look for the adult and the paddle board floating nearby.
    • Bring water, snacks, maybe a ball – keeping them entertained is the secret to success!

Provided the child is adequately prepared and properly outfitted for the occasion, they will have a blast on the water! Check out this video of Danny Ching, professional paddle boarder and parent, as he tries out a trick with his daughter on the board.