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Paddleboarding with toddlers – yes or no?

Over the summer we have enjoyed many paddleboarding adventures on our iSUPs with our two boys – both on our beautiful local stretch of rural Thames, and further afield – and we have often posted photos and videos on our social media pages. We always get lots of attention when we’re paddling with the boys on the front of our boards, and, whilst most peopleRiver Thames @ Lechlade love seeing them having a whale of a time, we have noticed some disapproving stares and tuts from people too. Although it’s not always easy to establish why the passive aggressive brigade are critical, there generally seem to be two main criticisms: whether we are being selfish by forcing the boys to go when they would rather be doing something else, and whether it really is safe to have toddlers and young children on paddleboards.

Turning first to the question of selfishness and small person enjoyment, no one who has seen our two-year-old sitting on the front of my board

Paddling at Cotswold Water Park Hire
Paddling at Cotswold Water Park Hire

trailing his feet in the water, waving to cows or other wildlife, and singing could dispute his enjoyment! We believe that kids not only should be playing outdoors whenever possible, but that they also love to be outdoors, whether it be in or on the water, in woods, fields, on beaches or just in the garden. Children love getting wet, muddy, dirty or

Hammock
Hammock

covered in leaves, and our two are no exception. Not only do they enjoy it, but we believe that children who grow up playing outdoors are healthier and fitter, both physically and mentally.

Our boys undoubtedly love playing outdoors, and, to their minds, paddleboarding is just another way to

Fun at the beach
Fun at the beach

play outdoors. We don’t just go paddleboarding. We go paddling to go wild swimming, to knock daddy in the water (ahem, there may have been some encouragement from mummy on that occasion), we go pretend fishing, and to spot wildlife or see the sunset, and we go exploring to find new beaches or a great picnic spot (because we all know that everything is better with a picnic). The boys love all of this, and the decision to go paddleboarding comes from them as often as from us. Yes, sometimes they say they don’t want to, and then we think of something else to do, or of a way to make it more appealing.

So, although it is only us getting the benefits of exercise this time, and they are sitting or lying on the front of the boards for a lot of the time, they are getting plenty of fresh air and enjoying the world around them. Plus we are confident that they get plenty of exercise at other times. It isAndy always worth bearing in mind that whilst you might be getting a work out, they are not, and ensuring you make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Here are just a few of our top tips to make paddleboarding an exciting adventure each time:

  • Bring a bucket to collect treasures, be it creatures, leaves, sand, shells or sticks. A net would enable fishing treasures out of the water. We whiled away a happy few hours in pouring rain combining paddleboarding with another favourite coastal acitivity – crabbing! Only once have we had a decaying fish head plonked on our boards!
  • Sticks – endless opportunities. Sticks can be fishing rods (our two love a bit of pretend fishing, and cooking and eating their catch), fairy wands, swords, the list is endless.
  • Take provisions in a dry bag strapped to the front of the board – drinks and snacks or a full picnic. Everyone loves a picnic, especially small children.
  • Look around – there are always different things to see, whether it’s other people enjoying the water, boats or wildlife. Make sure you point out interesting things, and explain what’s happening if necessary. We’ve watched boats going through locks (best to portage around on SUPs!) and
    Helping Uncle Pete open the gates
    Helping Uncle Pete open the gates

    helped the lock keeper open and shut the gates, counted different types of water craft, discussed tides (again and again) and spotted wildlife, which brings us to the next point:

  • Wildlife spotting – we’ve seen puffins, egrets, herons, kingfishers, otters, swimming grass snakes, jellyfish, salmon, spider crabs, crayfish, oyster beds, samphire forests (or baby trees if you are 4!) and much more.
  • Sing and tell stories about what you see. Having young children tends to make you leave your inhibitions at home, and we can often be found singing loudly and only vaguely in tune as we go!
  • Stop for a rest, or run around on the bank, or wild swim when interest levels flag.
    Wild swimming
    Wild swimming

With small people on board, it is probably unfair to go on long, touring paddles, and you always need to be aware of their interest levels. We have frequently turned back when the boys started to lose interest, when really we would have preferred to keep on going.

The other benefit of taking them paddleboarding when they are so young is that they will grow up enjoying it and will hopefully start paddling

Assisted paddling
Assisted paddling

themselves as soon as they can. At 4 and 2, our boys already love having a go at paddling their boards on their own (with one of us keeping tight hold on the leash), and it will only be a few years before they may be able to go it solo.

The other big issue is safety. We have been asked point blank why we are prepared to put our children at risk to indulge ourselves. Simple answer – we are not, and nor would we! I’m pleased to report that we convinced that particular observer that this was not the case, and she continued on her way knowing that the boys were having fun quality family time. Paddleboarding is not dangerous, and, as with many activities, probably safer than the car journey to our chosen launch point. However, there are a few guidelines to follow to ensure that no one is put at risk.

Personal flotation devices (pfd). These are essential for children, particularly non-independent-swimmers, in all environments. Your children do not need to be strong swimmers to come paddleboarding with you, but you need to know that if they did fall (or jump!) in, they would be able to float. We have treated pfds in a similar way to helmets when our

12'8 explorer
12’8 explorer

two are riding their bikes, so they have never been paddleboard without, and just accept that they are necessary. We have also made sure that they know why they are wearing them.

Pfd for parents is a hotly contested point, although if in doubt, it’s probably best to wear them. We do not wear them when we go on our local river – we are both strong swimmers, the river does not get rough and we always wear leashes which strap us to our boards – which are essentially large buoyancy aids. However, in other environments we do wear them.

Consider local environment and weather conditions. You need to know what the paddling is going to be like, and whether the weather is going to change. Paddling with the current and wind behind you is very different to paddling against it! Ideally only ever go downwind or upcurrent at the start of the trip so that you do the hard work before you get tired. However, if you are starting out with the wind or current behind you, test conditions going back if you get excited and go too far! Adjustable paddles can be a godsend, enabling you to paddle kneeling down if you are struggling to make headway. If you are paddling somewhere new, speak to the locals, or pop into a local surf or paddle shop. In general though, we only go out with our boys in fairly calm conditions, not 6 foot surf or down a gnarly river!

Key things to pack. As with all activities, it is always sensible to have a mobile phone with you (although remember to buy a waterproof case first!), so that you can get help if necessary. Money or a bank card is also useful, in case you need to bail out and get a bus or taxi back (or of course, in case you spot a lovely waterfront pub!). A small first aid kit can easily be stuffed in a bag and means that you can deal with any small injuries, real or imagined. And as with all things involving small children, copious snacks and drinks will make the paddle go more swimmingly.

Hopefully we have convinced you that paddleboarding with small children is both safe and enjoyable for everyone. Happy exploring!

If you want to find out more about the most family friendly SUP company, and the best family SUP boards, please visit our website www.mcconks.com to find out more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why paddleboarding is so popular

orlando
Naked SUP with Orlando Bloom

If there’s a sport that captures this year’s zeitgeist, it’s standup paddle boarding or SUP. Standup paddleboarding has been around for a decade or see, but it is the evolution of inflatable paddleboards that has really supercharged the appeal and development of SUP.  It seems that everyone has been keen to get in on the act this year, with Orlando Bloom paddleboarding naked, Bill Bailey appearing in the Guardian discussing his love of SUP on the Thames, and even Countryfile and Waitrose magazine featuring SUP in 2017.   And there are a number of reasons why SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the UK and the world right now:

  1. It’s accessible. Anyone; young, old, able, less abled are able to get on a board and paddle, as long as the board is the right size for the rider and conditions.
  2. All you need is water. Unlike most other board sports, you can SUP 24/7.  Admittedly some conditions are better than others; sun drenched waters and light winds are particularly appealing.  But SUP is independent of waves or wind.  Although there are speciality boards for racing, or for expeditions, or for esurfing, or for riding river rapids, a single all-purpose board can do all of this reasonably well.  And you can SUP anywhere; river, lake, sea or canal.  So there will always be somewhere to SUP within a few miles.
  3. It’s easy. With the correct board for your size and weight, you will  be up and paddling within minutes.  Even the most balance challengd beginners are stand up paddling within 15 minutes.
  4. It’s a great workout. It’s widely reported that SUP is good for the core muscles, and it’s also great for improving all round fitness; an hour paddleboarding will burn around 700 calories.  And because you’re in control of how hard you work and how far you go, it doesn’t matter what shape you start in.
  5. Once you have made the initial outlay in kit, there are very few ongoing costs. And although the initial outlay can seem significant, buying second hand, or buying smartly can reduce the initial outlay.
  6. Getting close to nature. Stand up paddleboarding puts you right out there to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.  With the water under your feet you’ll find that you have the perfect viewpoint to observe
    SUP with dolphins
    SUP with dolphins

    amazing creatures swimming and moving about below you.  You’ll be able to see birds in action, witness a serene sunrise, paddle through mist, or marvel at a breathtaking sunset. Whether you are on a solo, family, or social paddle stand up paddleboarding connects you with your natural surroundings.

  7. Quality time together. Whether river paddling to lunch in a riverside pub, or paddling down river with your children on the boards, SUP can be very sociable.  You can even bring your dog along for the ride.
  8. Stress reduction. Fed up of busy crowded beaches?  Paddle to that secluded island or inaccessible beach around the headland.  Skinny dipping. Paddle far from the madding crowd, strip, and dive in the water.  SUP is a great way to unwind and relax.  Beautiful sunsets, inspirational sunrises, paddling in amazing places reduces stress and recharges your batteries.
  9. Free dinner. Tie a crayfish or lobster pot net behind the board, add bacon and paddle.  Or take a fishing rod with you.  Easy to find your own perfect spot.  And then grill them up on the beach when you get back.  Probably with a cold beer!
  10. Deflate the board, roll up, and pack away in the convenient wheeled rucksack that comes with the best inflatable paddleboards. No worrying about tired dogsarms strapping the boards to the roof or trying to squash everything into the car.  You can be on the road in a few short minutes after getting off the water.

If these reasons don’t make you want to rush out and get your hands on an inflatable paddle board, then nothing will!

Visit our webshop to find out how easy it is to get hold of great quality, affordable paddleboard kit!

 

 

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The hard work starts now for the #MalteseSUPproject

The #MalteseSUPproject had had a great day today, covering the best part of 15km despite heavy seas and strong winds.

They’ve just reached the South East tip of Malta, making camp overnight in a rather rocky and brutalist industrial landscape at Marsallox.  It took getting up at sunrise and paddling til mid afternoon to cover 15km, so progress is slower than the team would like due to the swell and wind conditions.

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Launching and landing in particular  has been a challenge today with onshore winds and heavy seas causing concern.  And whilst inflatable SUP are much more resilient than hard boards to knocks on rocks, reefs and shorebreaks, you can’t take too many hits on sharp rocky shores before something gives.   This will be an increasing problem for the team over the next couple of as they’re entering the high cliff rocky shore section, so places to land and make camp will be few and far between. Tomorrow will almost certainly be another  long day of paddling to find somewhere accessible enough to stop.

Good luck team!