Kids have an awesome ability to learn paddleboarding by example and in my experience I have found that they will pick up technique in no time by watching and paddling with us grown up groms ! However, here are some tips that I’ve found useful when teaching my daughter and friends on how to get started on their sups and the basics of paddle technique:
First Time Up
Most kids just jump on a sup and go, standing wherever they naturally feel comfortable without any forethought…..falling off is part of the fun after all ! Saying that though any wobbles and balance issues can be sorted fairly quickly by getting the position and stance right.
The best position on a kids paddleboard for stability is about halfway up, somewhere near the carry handle as a good guide. Feet shoulder width apart and with knees bent, most important… eyes to the horizon not on the feet, now they are ready to paddle, even if they are feeling unbalanced and not too confident at this point to take a paddle stroke then actually encouraging a stroke will help as forward motion helps with balance and gives them something else to think about, making it a more natural balance effort.
Before I chat about technique I just want to make a quick point about kids paddles, its absolutely crucial to kids success on a board that the paddle is the right size, it will also help if it is lightweight and floats !! Carbon paddles are the best option for the lightest paddle but come at a cost, its best to look for a kids adjustable paddle with an aluminium shaft as a good compromise between cost and weight. As for size the general rule of thumb for kids paddles is the same as adults looking at a length of approx 5″ above the riders height. From experience I have found that getting this right will help grow the grom’s confidence as having a paddle too long will just be awkward and unproductive stroke-wise.
The best way to hold a paddle is one hand on the handle and one half way down the shaft, this may seem pretty obvious but its quite funny the many different ways I’ve seen kids hold a paddle…unsuccessfully ! Best described to kids as making a triangle with arms and shaft.
This next tip is paddle style dependent so if you’re grom has a flat paddle ignore this. Many paddles have a bend or angle at the the top of the blade, both styles are effective but having had a child in my care who could not get which way to have the paddle in the water no matter how many times I explained, a good way I’ve found to explain it is to descibe the paddle as a spoon, sounds simple but works !
I have found when teaching kids that when they are learning, a few short strokes are way more effective than long strokes as this helps keep their paddleboard moving in a straight line and avoids the zigzag effect.
Its important they get the blade fully under the water and pull it back along the contour of the board stopping near their feet, this increases the power of the stroke and helps with a straight glide movement, I’ve noticed that newbie grom’s tend to arch the paddle out but this causes wobble and power loss, encourage them to pull it along as close to the board as they can ( rail tape on the kids paddle board might be a good option if they are a bit clumsy with their strokes ).
Finally the turn, paddling backwards on either side will get them turning easily or if they are feeling confident then a foot on the back of the board to lift the front of the board up will get them turning super quick and showing off to their mates ( and grown ups that can’t do that yet ! )