I love fun and peaceful early morning paddles when the waters are calm and the sun is rising. I like to listen to the seagulls waking up and see the ripples of small fish feeding on the surface as I drift by on my SUP. But I also love to paddle with my wife and kids, which means absolutely no early mornings. My kids do LOVE to be on the water, just not first thing in the morning. Here is a list of the fun things I like to do with my family on our stand-up paddleboards
- Using SUP as a Diving Platform
- SUP Surfing
- Exploring Marshes and Creeks
- Visiting Paddle-up Restaurants.
- Playing tag
- Shell Collecting
- Shark Tooth Collecting
1. Using the Paddleboard as a Diving Platform
One of my kid’s favorite things to do is to use our stand-up paddleboard as a diving platform. I will paddle out past the breakers at the beach with one of my children kneeling on the bow. When we are past the breaking waves and just rising and falling over the swells, He likes to time a swell, so that he jumps just as we are cresting the wave. The upward momentum gives him an extra boost, and he soars into the air and usually lands yelling, “Cannon Ball!!!”
Other times I will paddle both kids (usually on my knees) out past the breakers. They both like to bring their goggles, and we strap a bucket to the stern tie-downs. They Slip off the SUP and explore the clear water. It is not unusual for them to find starfish, sand dollars, and some pretty shells. My eldest has found a couple of conchs. They also come back to the board to report sightings of flounder, pinfish, and other exciting sea creatures.
2. SUP Surfing
One little-known fact is that using a stand-up paddleboard is much more effective when the waves are small. The length of a SUP makes it much more stable and easier to pick up waves earlier on. This is great for less-skilled surfers and kids.
However, don’t let the fact that SUPs are great for small waves. They can also hold their own in higher surf. It’s not uncommon to see people surf 20’+ waves on a stand-up paddleboard. Crazy, right?
Maybe, but super fun.
Not many people would associate crabbing with paddleboarding. The fact is, SUPs are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment that have a ton of “hidden” uses. Crabbing is one of them.
There are two ways we like to crab using our SUPs, and we usually do both on the same day to increase our catch and to enjoy the process. First, we tie down a crab pot to each of our boards. These we place on our paddle over to a deserted island on the Intracoastal waterway. Those will sit for at least two hours, and we pick them up on the way back home.
On the island, we use the old standard, a chicken leg tied to a rope, and a long net. All you have to do is tossed the chicken leg out about 5-8 feet and let it attract some Blue crabs. Once one starts feeding, I slowly pull the chicken leg with the crab holding on toward the beach. One of the kids slides the net behind the crab, and with a quick flick, the crab is in the net, then quickly into the cooler. Toss that chicken leg back out and repeat.
On the way back home, we pull in the crab pots we had set, and usually, we have anywhere from 0 to 15 or 20. I’m telling you the only thing more fun than spending a day on a quiet beach catching crabs with your kids is the backyard crab boil that you have that evening.
Now, when I say fishing with kids from a SUP, I ‘m talking relaxing fishing. I will take one or both of my kids out to a lake, a quiet place on the river, or back into the bays off the Intracoastal waterway. I just take a minimal amount of gear (which usually includes a snack). We pick our spot to hang our legs over the side of the paddleboard, and we fish.
No frills here. I recommend keeping it simple and teaching the kids that there’s more to fishing than just catching fish. It’s about being with family and relaxing on the water.
Usually, we are just catching to release. But the kids love to hang out on their SUP and get a chance for something to bend their pole.
If your kids are competitive (like mine), then there is nothing better than a good race to make for a fun day. It’s also great exercise. I just recommend mixing it up and holding several “events” to give everyone a chance to win. Just be sure to handicap the races appropriately for the younger kids.
My kids are evenly matched, but it’s easy enough to stagger a start for an even race. How we usually race on paddleboards, and to be honest, it’s usually the kids racing. I’m content to be the umpire.
I will take two items, usually a couple of sticks, and place them on a beach. The kids then go to a starting point. Race to the beach. Hop off the SUP and grab one of the sticks. The first one to hand me a stick is the winner. You would think this would get old, but one race usually turns into best of 3 then best of 5, and so on, until I finally have to step in a declare a winner.
6. Exploring Marshes and Creeks
I remember my days back growing up where I would endlessly explore the numerous waterways and lakes in the county I lived in. Letting an 8-year-old go off by themselves among the gators and snakes would be unthinkable nowadays. But free-ranging like this helped instill a love of nature, self-reliance, and independence during my formative years.
You can do basically the same thing today, although now it makes more sense to have it be a family adventure. One of my kids’ favorite things to do on a paddleboard is to explore. They like to go deep into the swamp grass and sneak up on egrets. They like to glide over schools of rays swimming in packs.
Using a SUP allows the adventurer in them to come out. They have made maps in the past, and sometimes they like getting lost and finding their way back to the main channel. You’d be surprised at how many cool things there are to see just off the beaten path.
On days we plan on spending most of the day on the water, we will always pack a nice picnic lunch. You haven’t lived until you have munched a sandwich with your family out on the water or on a “desert island” like “Robinson Crusoe” and his family.
Sometimes we like to put ourselves in “survival situations,” and we are only allowed to eat what we catch. Of course, dad always has some emergency power bars hidden away just in case. In the survival scenarios, we only bring a pan for the crabs and a flint, and some salt and pepper for the fish.
What can I say? If you’ve never slept on the beach on a cool September night, you’re missing out. Camping from a SUP is super fun. The goods news is it is super cheap as well.
What we usually do is take our gear (tent, sleeping bags. cooking stuff, firewood, water, etc.) and drop it off at our chosen island home for that night. Then we play on the boards or fish or crab or just build a fire and hang out.
9. Visit Paddle-up Restaurants
After a long afternoon paddling and SUP racing and crabbing and fishing, there is nothing like paddling up to a dock. Taking a seat at an outdoor table and having cold lemonades to sip while you peruse your choices for dinner. The kids love being able to sit in plastic chairs with sandy, bare feet and munching on a burger or salad. And when dinner is over, they get to hop back on their paddleboards and play some more.
My kids can’t help but notice the envy on the faces of “landlubber” kids at the restaurant when they get to paddle away in the water.
10. Tag (with waterguns)
The game of tag we play on stand-up paddleboards is with water guns, like my favorite ones found on Amazon, and two people per board. You have one paddler and one shooter. Then without too many rules, the kids and I just chase each other around and shoot each other with the water guns.
My son wanted a SUP-themed birthday party last year. We just rented a few extra boards for the day and found a nice beach to set up the cake. Then the kids started playing this game, and we had to stop after several hours to make sure we had time for the cake and to get back to the cars before dark.
11. Shell Collecting
What kid doesn’t like to collect shells?
My kids, especially like collecting them from a SUP. The advantage of collecting shells using a paddleboard is that you are able to get to many more undisturbed beaches. There is one island near us that is absolutely filled with conch shells.
On the main beaches, the ones with all the hotels, you’d be lucky to find parts of a shattered conch shell. It’s just another example of how nice “just off the beaten path” is and how a SUP can get you there.
12. Shark Tooth Collecting
There is an island in the river near my home called Shark Tooth Island. Actually, many of the dredge islands in this stretch of the river have lots of sharks’ teeth. This is because they are “dredge islands,” so they are composed of what is sucked up from the river bottom.
Apparently, there are a lot of fossils in the river bed, including shark teeth. A friend of mine actually found a tooth from a megalodon on this island. Anyway, you can see that paddling over on SUPs to search for sharks’ teeth and potentially other fossils would be a blast for kids of any age.
As you can see, entertaining a kid with a SUP is a piece of cake. Strapping our boards to the top of the van and heading out for a day of exploring, paddling, and fun really is one of their favorite things in the world.
So, what are you waiting for? Trust me, you will not look back on the experiences and regret one second of it. But you might regret not taking the time to give it a try.
Just make sure you follow all the local laws concerning SUPs
Is Paddle Boarding With Kids Dangerous?
Anytime a child is around water, there is a danger. You can lessen these dangers on a SUP by using life jackets and leashes, even when not required to by law. We always use ours when crossing open stretches of water. Even calm water.
What are the Best Places to SUP around Wilmington, NC?
I plan on making a post about this very question, but off the top of my head, I would say: Shark Tooth Island (In the Cape Fear River), The backside of Masonboro Island (off the Intracoastal Waterway), and the surf of Wrightsville Beach.
What Is the Best Stand up Paddle Board for Beginners?
While SUPs can be expensive, I wouldn’t break the bank on my first purchase. Instead, go with a quality board that is reasonably priced like this one found on Amazon. It has everything you need and is high quality. I’ve owned one for a couple of years and it fits the needs of everyone I know, even beginners.
For more, check out Is Stand up Paddle Boarding Fun? | 18 Reasons to Try It.