Purchasing a paddle board for a child is not much different then picking one for an adult. The same basic questions have to be asked. The only difference is accounting for the child’s age and how much more they are expected to grow over the next five years.
Let’s examine the questions every parent purchasing a paddle board for their child should be asking.
HOW MUCH DOES MY CHILD WEIGH?
This is the first question to ask. Once a person’s weight is known some board sizes can be easily selected.
Board sizes are measured in two ways. Physical dimensions and board volume. A paddle board’s volume or displacement is measured in Liters (L). An example of this would be 190L.
The greater the volume/displacement a paddle board has, the more weight it can carry without sinking. In regards to stability versus volume for beginner paddlers, a ratio of 1lb of rider weight / 1L Displacement (W/D) is a good guideline.
Using this ratio, a novice paddler considering a 190L paddle board can weigh as much as 190 lbs and still feel very stable on the board.
Children weigh much less than an adult, which means that a child will find almost any paddle board extremely stable.
WEIGHT/DISPLACEMENT RATIOS FOR CHILDREN
Board stability is great, but getting your child a paddle board to large for her size can be counterproductive.
With every paddle stroke, your child pulls the board through the water. Paddling a larger SUP means that your child will be pulling more weight and friction through the water than necessary. While this activity will help increase strength and endurance, the excitement level will be diminished.
Purchasing a paddle board with a W/D ratio of 1:1 will work, if your child is no longer growing like a weed. As she gains experience, she will not need the great stability the 1:1 ratio provides. As your child grows, her added weight will decrease board stability, but that’s OK, as she will have the experience to handle it.
Getting a larger paddle board for your child is fine, if you want her to grow into it. Just don’t exceed 1:1.5 ratio. A board that large will be more difficult to maneuver, slow and hard to carry.
INFLATABLE OR HARD BOARDS?
Should you get your child an inflatable or hard paddle board? If your child is serious about the sport, and you have the budget, then a hard board should be the choice.
Every inflatable paddle board strives to be as effective in the water as a hard board. Rigid paddle boards have superior glide through the water. Ultimately, a paddle board’s glide is a large part of the experience.
Most importantly, hard boards are more stable than inflatables. A hard paddle board is exactly that – hard (like a side walk). Inflatable paddle boards can only get as hard as the amount of air pumped into them. If not inflated properly, they will sag under weight decreasing stability.
A hard board is also easier to maintain. Simply clean it with fresh water and place it in its storage space. No unpacking, unrolling, inflating, drying, deflating, rolling and repacking that occurs with inflatables.
Inflatable paddle boards can also play a role. These types of boards are less expensive and store easier than hard boards. If you think your child might lose interest, then an inflatable may be a more cost-effective decision. If you live in an apartment or have limited store space, then an inflatable may also work better.
WHAT ARE MY CHILD’S GOALS/PLAN?
Paddle boards come in different sizes and shapes because they are designed to do different things. Part of picking the right size paddle board is knowing what you want to do with it.
You shouldn’t buy a 14’ long 300L racing board just because you’re 250 lbs and it fits your Displacement/Rider Weight ratio. Buy this board if you want to take up racing or going on long paddles.
For most people, an All-Around style paddle board is the ideal shape for your first paddle board. This style is good at just about everything, but it isn’t a specialist at any one function. I highly recommend this board style for your child’s first board.
Picking the correct paddle board shouldn’t be based on data from a chart or table. Your child will have this piece of equipment for years, so more consideration should be taken. Pay attention to the weight / displacement ratio, and where your child’s growth is in her physical development. Try to get a ratio of roughly 1:1 or no more than 1:1.5 if there is still a lot of growing to do. Match the paddle board’s style to meet your child’s goals and you will have a selection that everyone will be happy with for many years.
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.
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