Stand up paddleboarding can be a great family activity, but it’s not always easy to SUP with kids. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to get you started the right way. With our helpful guide, you can make it fun, keep it safe, teach them a few skills, and maybe even spark a lifelong love of paddleboarding! Read on to find out all you need to know on how to SUP with kids. 

Kid and man smiling while sitting on paddleboards in the water

It’s always a fun time on a paddleboard!

SUP with Kids: Our Tips & Tricks

Make it Fun

When introducing kids to SUP, you’ll want to make it fun. Don’t worry too much about teaching them the proper paddle stroke. Think less formal lesson and more good times! Just sitting on the board and splashing the water can be amusing and create a positive association with paddleboarding. If it’s enjoyable to them, chances are they’ll want to do it again.

The good news is that by incorporating play, they are learning in the process. Kids love to explore and try new things; it’s how they figure out how the world works. Give them some space to be creative and silly. You’ll be amazed at what they can pick up when they are just playing around.

Kid paddling a Thurso Surf stand up paddleboard in the water

The right size board and paddle will get kids up and paddling

Get Them Gear for their Size

Have you ever rented or borrowed equipment that was the wrong size for you? If you have, you’ll know that it can make or break an outing. The first time I tried snowboarding, I used a board that was too big and the wrong orientation for me. The experience was so bad, I refused to touch a snowboard for years. But once I finally did it with the proper equipment, it was a lot more enjoyable and something I wanted to do again. 

The same applies to kids; the right sized gear will make for a more enjoyable experience. They should be using a board or paddle that is designed for them, and is not too big or too heavy. There are plenty of great SUP options for kids out there. If it seems like a bit of an investment, you can look into renting, borrowing, or buying second hand. An inflatable board is a great option because, unlike a hardboard, the durable PVC makes it ding-resistant.

Man, woman, and child sit on their paddleboards in the water

With a hat, lifejacket, rashguard, and leash, your kid is ready to SUP safely

Safety First

When taking kids out paddleboarding, safety should be at the top of your mind. Instilling smart paddling practices at a young age will stay with them for life. The rules of SUP safety for kids are easy to follow. There are four things you’ll want to keep in mind: location, life jacket, swim skills, and sun protection


When going for a SUP with the little ones, you’ll want to choose a kid-friendly location. Bring them somewhere that is sandy and sheltered, like a beach, lake, or cove. Ideally, the water will be calm and there will be little-to-no obstructions under the surface of the water. Also, consider a location that provides lifeguard services like a public beach or community park. 

Life Jacket

A life jacket is an essential item for any child participating in water sports. In fact, most regions require kids under a certain age to be wearing a life jacket by law. There are many options available in a variety of styles, patterns, and colours. Get one that is properly fitted and comfortable to wear. 

Swim Skills

Even though a life jacket is a must-have, kids should also be comfortable in water. Knowing how to swim, or at least being able to tread water, is a great skill to have and will instill confidence. Check your local YMCA or community center for lessons. 

Sun Protection

If you plan to be out in the sun, don’t forget sun protection! A bad sunburn can quickly turn a fun day into one you’d rather forget. Sun protection comes in different forms; consider a hat, rash guard, and/or sunscreen.  Use sunscreen that is waterproof and don’t forget to reapply regularly. 

Kid holding a Thurso Surf stand up paddleboard and paddle while standing at the water's edge

Be prepared before you hit the water

Set Some Rules

SUP is super fun but young ones also need to understand that using a paddleboard comes with certain responsibilities. Let kids know what is ok and what isn’t when using the equipment. For instance, sitting and standing on the board while it is in the water are both ok. Jumping on the board on land and waving around the paddle is a no-no. If they are old enough to take the board out on their own, let them know where it is safe to paddle; pick landmarks that visually indicate the boundary, such as buoys, flags, or lifeguard stands. They should always be in your range of vision.

Show Them How to Fall Off and Get Back on the Board

Falling off the board is such a fun skill to teach! Kids are fearless and will pick this up easily. The safest way to fall is to starfish backwards and away from your board, which minimizes contact with the board and any underwater hazards. Demonstrate how to do it and challenge the kids to imitate you. Who wouldn’t want to make a big splash in the water? Then show them how to push themselves or wiggle back onto the board. It’s just like getting out of a pool. Remember; the easiest place to climb on is near the handle. If you need a refresher, check out our how-to post.

Kid sits on a paddleboarding, drinking a can of pop he got from an open deck bag on the board

It’s always snack time on board with a deck bag

Add on Some Accessories 

There are many fun and helpful accessories that will make your SUP excursion even better for kids! A kayak seat can easily clip onto your board so your kids can use it as a sit-on-top SUP kayak. This is especially great if the only board available is an adult-sized one. A waterproof deck bag comes in handy to pack food and drinks for longer excursions or days at the beach. Who wouldn’t get cranky without the occasional snack and juice box? Finally, consider getting an electric pump. Kids aren’t always able or willing to manually pump boards, so an electric pump will be the extra hand you need, letting you focus on getting ready for your great day on the water. 

SUP with Kids; It’s the Best!

We hope found some great tips and tricks for your next SUP outing with the little ones. With a bit of preparedness, paddleboarding can be your new go-to activity that everyone can enjoy and the kids will want to do again and again. Do you have any tips to share on how to SUP with kids? Let us know in the comments below!




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About the Author: Jordan-na

Jordan-na Belle-Isle is a Toronto-based SUP instructor, lake surfer, and writer. Born in Montreal, she has been sporty her whole life and discovered stand-up paddleboarding in 2013. Since then, she has been active in the SUP scene, paddling and surfing the Great Lakes year-round. Jordan-na is a patient and encouraging instructor. She obtained her first SUP instructor certification in 2017 and has been teaching ever since. She has worked with Surf the Greats and Toronto Island SUP, running everything from group classes, to one-on-one training, to winter SUP safety clinics, to team-building events for clients and partners such as Google, Brown Girl Outdoor World, L’Oreal, Swim Drink Fish, and Ryerson University. She currently holds an Advanced SUP Instructor certification with Paddle Canada and is Bronze Cross certified with the Ontario Lifesaving Society. A recognizable face in the Great Lakes SUP and surf scene, her image has been used in a national campaign for Tourism Canada and she has been interviewed by several media outlets such as SUP Connect, Breakfast Television, Daily Hive News, and the Toronto Star. She was also the subject of a short documentary film titled ‘In Winter.’ A skilled writer with a masters degree from the University of Toronto, her work has appeared in Explore Magazine and she is a regular contributor to the Thurso Surf blog and Surf the Greats Journal. She is a co-organizer for Lake Surfistas, a grassroots group that connects, empowers, and educates women who surf and SUP the Great Lakes year-round.

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