If you love to SUP and you have kids, it’s only natural to want to get them paddling with you. It’s great exercise, gets them off their electronics, and brings the family together on the water.
Maybe you’ve thought about buying a “kids board” for them. A board designed specifically for kids will be smaller than an adult board, less expensive, and may have bright colors or illustrations that appeal to children.
But you may want to think carefully before making that purchase. Why? Because you don’t know how long your kid will maintain interest in paddle boarding. Your kids will grow up, always faster than you expected, and if they are still interested in paddling as they grow, they will need a larger board.
What to do about this? Instead of buying a kids board, consider choosing an adult board that also works for kids.
Kids can paddle on smaller boards than adults, just because they weigh less and need less buoyancy. But that doesn’t mean they can’t paddle on a board that’s also big enough to support an adult.
Look for a board on the smaller end of the adult size range. For example an all around board that is 9” – 10” in length can be paddled by a kid, but will also be a fun board for an experienced adult paddler under 200 lb. A 7 foot board designed for river surfing can be perfect for a child to play around on around the lake – and provide a proud parent another different board they can add to their quiver ;)
A 5 inch thick board will work out better for your kid than a 6 inch thick board. The thinner board will ride lower on the water for better balance and will be much easier to climb back on after falling in the water. The thinner board will also be easier to carry under kid-sized arms.
Kids lose and break things easily, so you’ll want a board with an unbreakable fin system. A permanently attached set of three flexible fins is the ideal setup for kids. Another way to go if the board will surfed by an adult is a configurable fin system which will allow you to easily replace any lost or broken fins but if kids are going to be kids, get the unbreakable permanent fins – you’ll thank us later.
Look for a deck pad made of resistant materials that won’t get torn up in case of careless use. A board from a reputable brand that we sell, will all use quality materials that will suffice.
An inflatable makes more sense than a hard board for kids in many ways.
For one, you’ll want a durable board that won’t get dinged when your kids are playing around and potentially mistreating it.
Also, an Inflatable won’t hurt as much when it hits your kid on the head, or likewise your kid potentially misguides a 9-10ft missile into you.
Similarly, an Inflatable SUP with flexible fins is less of a hazard than hardboard fins that can cut like a razor. Ouch, bad, and lets avoid the injuries and long term groundings and stay out on the water.
Your kids can ride on just about any board you give them, but will have an easier time on a smaller board. Since you don’t really know how much use your kids will get out of any board you buy, it’s better to buy a board that your kids can use, but will also be useful for you and other family members in the long term.
Use your kids interest in SUP as a great opportunity to buy that surfing or short river board you’ve always wanted, as it can double as a kids board. Or buy a compact all around board that will be perfect for your future travels. Just don’t get carried away buying a board that is too small for anyone else but your kids to ride, because you can be sure they won’t stay kids for long - as the author of this very article can duly attest to.
See our top inflatable paddle boards for kids and teens here.
Want more expert advice on choosing an inflatable SUP board? Check out our 2018 Inflatable Paddle Board Buyer’s Guide.