As a mom of 5 kids, I know what it means to struggle with getting all the little ones ready not just for a great time, but for a safe time, too. It can be stressful going to the water and worrying if your kids are OK. Have you had that feeling?
I'm guessing the answer is "Yes", so let's ditch the stress and do a review:
• Check the forecast before you go. Remember to check the wind as well as any potential precipitation, lightning forecast, etc.
• Know the limitations of your child's paddling expertise. Depending on age, experience, and wind speeds, you may want to consider a few options instead of sending a kid out to paddle on their own.
• Tandem paddling with an adult. My kids have been paddling their own equipment since they were 3 years old, but they were raised to know how to use the gear by paddling with an adult first.
• Having a type of tow rope to connect their water craft to yours, if you are a strong and experienced paddler that doesn't mind the workout.
• Make sure you have appropriate personal flotation device (PFD) sizes. Arm floaties are not going to cut it. If you have an infant or smaller child, consider having a PFD with a handle to grab the child if they fall off your water craft. Some life vests have a strap you can bring between the legs and a head rest to give added support. Of course, Dig Paddlesports rents and sells these items. Every individual on the watercraft need to have a PFD. ALWAYS make sure your child has theirs on when they are on the water. Another day, I will do a whole blog just about PFDs.
• If budget allows, get a guide or instructor to teach some tips and techniques you might not know. Trust me. Just the other day, a cute family came to enjoy the lake, and it was a breezy day with some gusts. Most people, especially kids, struggle in those conditions, but they had hired one of our guides to take them out. Best decision of their day! Not only did they not cancel due to the breeze, they had an instructor and guide teaching them how to hold the paddle, where to go, and encouraging the kids all the way. What could have been a major disappointment for the day's plans ended up being the best day, ever. Plus, having an experienced guide with the right certification and safety training created a much better day on the water for all of them. The guide also provided a light picnic. Yes, we do that here at Dig as well! Ask about guided tours and instruction.
• KIDS CAMP! This camp is great for kids 8 and above that really want to be paddling on their own without mom or dad always taking them out. We focus mostly on stand up paddle instruction, but there will also be kayaking. You will be amazed at how much better of a paddler your child becomes from just a few weeks with our instructors. When a child is taught HOW to paddle, they can handle a moderate breeze a lot better than a child just sent out on your new new toys for the first time. Imagine this for a moment, You just bought a new stand up paddleboard and are excited to get on the water. You live near a town called Hurricane, Utah... called Hurricane for a reason... A windy place, perhaps. You get to the lake and are excited to play, and after sending your cute 10 year-old out on the water, the wind comes up. Pretty normal day here at the lake. Your kid might not know there are tricks to how to stand, how deep to put the paddle in, how wide the hands should be placed, etc... "Kid A" has never been to Kids Camp. "Kid B" went to Kids Camp last summer. Guess who will make it back with confidence? It's the best safety thing for you to invest in to be able to relax a little more at the lake while the "littles" recreate with capability.
• Know the lay of the land. If it is your first time at that body of water, get to know the nooks and crannies and creek and inlets. It's another great reason to get a guide to show you the area. Make a float plan with your independent kids and find out where they will be headed and when they will be back. If possible, have them bring a dry bag with a 2-way radio so you can reach them, and have them pack snacks and enough drinking water for the excursion.
As a mom, I want to enjoy the lake while allowing my kids to enjoy it as well. I relax when I know they are OK. I know my 12 year-old will be wearing his life jacket and has been taught skills that will bring him back safely.
I'm asked all the time, "How old should my kids be before I put them on their own equipment?". That depends on so many things. Some 6 year-olds will do better than some 15 year-olds simply due to how often they have been out before. Start with tandem paddling. Get on the equipment with your small child or first-timers. Get that guide to go with you if possible. Get professional instruction for you and your child. Yes, we do offer paddle clinics every Saturday morning, as well as private instruction and camps. Learn those skills for yourself.
Remember the water, remember patience, remember to plan, and don't forget the sunscreen!
I've been doing this a long time with kids under foot. I want you to enjoy the water as much as we do. With a little preparation, it's an amazing experience!
- Michelle Ennis, Mother of 5 and Co-Owner of Dig Paddlesports
PSUPA, WPA, Paddlefit-certified Coach