As children, my siblings and I would take the mast off my dad’s windsurf board and use it as a paddleboard. I think we were onto something. Now stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is all the rage. You can do SUP yoga, glow SUP, SUP fit and various SUP adventures. The biggest adventure of all is SUP with kids! It’s actually a lot of fun to SUP with kids. Sure, it’s a different kind of SUP. A bit slower and unpredictable but definitely worth trying a least once, and then once more… and then you’re hooked. We aren’t professional SUPers (is that a word?) by any means but we’ve learned a thing or two during our SUP adventures. Here are a few tips for stand up paddleboarding with kids, along with some rental locations in the Okanagan Valley.
1. Safety First! Wear a PDF.
Water is an amazing substance, so crucial to our existence and yet it can be so dangerous. Anytime we get out on the water, whether on a boat, a canoe or a kayak, PDFs (personal flotation devices aka life-jackets) are non-negotiable. Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is no exception. If you’ve forgotten your PDFs at home, no worries, they come with paddleboard rentals. Make sure kids wear properly fitted lifejackets, and adults, especially those paddling with kids, should wear PDFs too, an inflatable belt pack PDF is another option if a life jacket feels too restrictive.
2. Protect that Skin.
Paddling through glistening water on a hot summer’s day is a glorious thing. Let’s keep that memory unscathed. It doesn’t take long to get burned out on the water (less than an hour), trust me. In the Okanagan Valley where summers are hot, I’ve learned that keeping kids covered is the best way to protect their skin. We love the MEC Aurora/Apollo Sunsuits, the MEC Shadow Long-Sleeved Sun Shirt and Sun Shorts, and can’t wait to try out the *new* Jan & Jule Kids Sun Protection Clothing (so cute!). Any uncovered skin gets slathered in sunscreen (much to my kids’ dismay).
3. Bring Water and Snacks.
Even if you plan on going out for a short time, bring plenty of water and some snacks. Being out in the hot sun can cause children and adults to dehydrate quickly. If you don’t want to bring water on the board, paddle close to shore and come in for regular water breaks.
4. Rent a Stand Up Paddleboard.
Renting a Stand Up Paddleboard is the easiest way to test the SUP waters as a family. There are spots to rent boards throughout the Okanagan Valley. We had the pleasure of getting our boards from Penticton Paddle Surf at their Skaha Lake location. They were so friendly, helpful and their prices are the best around! If your family is looking to try SUP in the South Okanagan I would highly recommend checking them out.
Directions to Penticton Paddle Surf (Skaha Lake Location): Park at the large parking area at the corner of Elm Ave and Cypress St. in Penticton, BC, and walk down to the beach. Look for a red Penticton Paddle Surf tent on the left side on the beach. For hours or more information about their Okanagan Lake Location visit their website.
SUP rental location in the Okanagan Valley:
ATB Watersports (Osoyoos, BC – Osoyoos Lake)
Glow SUP Adventures (Penticton, BC – Skaha Lake)
Kalavida Surf Shop (Coldstream, BC – Kalamalka Lake)
Okanagan Beach Rentals (Kelowna, BC – three locations on Okanagan Lake: Gyro Beach, Rotary Beach, Bear Creek Provincial Park and one in Summerland, BC: Sun-Oka Provincial Park)
Penticton Paddle Surf (Penticton, BC – two locations: Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake)
Sun n’ SUP (Naramata, BC – Okanagan Lake)
5. Choose a Stable Board.
If you’re new to SUP, or paddling with a child on your board (or both!) let the rental staff know. It helps to have a nice, big stable board. Leave the sleek fast boards for another day. Usually, the rental staff are great at getting you set up for happy times on the water. Also, most SUP rental places have boards for kids.
6. Paddle on Calm Water.
Find calm water to paddle over. This means little, to no wind and no big waves. In the Okanagan Valley I recommend Skaha Lake over Okanagan Lake. Skaha lake, located between Penticton and Okanagan Falls, is smaller, warmer and tends to be less busy (fewer boats and fewer big waves). Another tip, lakes, especially Skaha Lake, tend to be more calm first thing in the morning.
7. Kids can SUP or co-SUP with Kids!
Kids around seven and older can paddle their own board. Of course it depends on their comfort, balance, strength and size. My seven year old is strong but very petite and found it challenging to SUP on her own. Kids that can’t SUP on their own can co-SUP with an adult. This is great for kids between two-ish and seven. Before putting a child on a board with you make sure of two things: you can balance on the board and your child is comfortable swimming in water with a PDF on. When you’re ready have your child sit in front of you, you could even kneel behind them if standing seems a bit unnerving at first. Young children might enjoy helping out by holding their own small paddle or net.
8. Stay Close to Shore
Again, if you’re new to SUP and are going with kids I recommend staying close to shore. That way kids can comes back for breaks or to switch equipment if things aren’t quite working. The Penticton Paddle Surf staff were really great about helping my kids figure out what they were comfortable using and being close to shore made it easy to switch paddles/boards as needed and to grab drinks of water.
9. End on a Happy Note
Always keep tabs on how everyone is doing. If you see that your kids are getting tired of being on the board make the call and bring the boards in. Kids are always more keen to try an activity again if their memories of their last experience were positive. I think we parents are the same.
I hope these tips will help you go out on your very own family SUP adventure! Feel free to share your own tips for paddling with kids, or your favourite family-friendly spots to SUP in the Okanagan Valley in the comments below. Happy paddling!
Disclaimer: A big thank you to Penticton Paddle Surf for the complimentary boards for our family SUP adventure. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared in this post are my very own.