It’s safe to assume that Colorado kids will grow up skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or biking. But surfing? The Centennial State doesn’t boast any legit ocean waves, but we’re certainly not lacking in scenic lakes and rivers that are perfect for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).
How can you make this on-water experience fun for kids? We hit up local SUP enthusiasts John and Lori Poppleton, owners of the four-year-old Surf’SUP Colorado shop in Morrison. “Stand-up paddleboarding is the perfect family and multi-generational activity,” Lori says. “It’s easy to engage young children, and as kids grow they continue to want to paddle with their parents, families, and even grandparents.” The Poppletons—parents of six children and grandparents to 11—gave us tips on getting the whole family out on the water.
The Board: The most common question for (and from) anyone interested in paddleboarding is “rigid or inflatable?” According to Lori, it’s a personal preference, along with a family’s storage and transportation capabilities. It’s more important to “try before you buy” and consider how you plan on using it (river, lake, with kids) and your size. If you’re taking a passenger with you on a standup paddleboard, Lori says, “Go wide.” A decent width will increase stability with multiple people on-board.
How Little Can They Be? If a child can sit-up without assistance and can wear a personal floatation device (PFD), then they can ride on stand-up paddleboard. With the littlest and more unsure passengers, Lori recommends standing on the midpoint of the board and letting them lean their back against your shins for stability. As they get more confident, children will start to move around and explore sitting closer to the nose of the board. Tip: If you’re a first-timer on the paddleboard, do some practice laps before you bring a child onboard.
When Can They Paddle On Their Own? There’s no firm age for when kids can paddle out onto the water on their own, but Lori says it usually happened around 6 to 7 years old. “They need strength, balance, and the right board to paddleboard on their own,” Lori says. “But we’ve had kids as young as four, who are excited to paddle, fly across the water.”
Don’t Rush: Kids will become comfortable on paddleboards at their own pace. “In a high-tech, fast-paced world, SUPing engages kids in their environment,” Lori says. “At first, you’d think an hour would be too long for a child on a paddleboard. But from our experience, good luck getting them off the water.”
Where to Go: Grab a couple demo boards from Surf’SUP in Morrison then head to Big Soda Lake at Bear Creek Lake Park (you can also rent boards hourly at the lake, but expect to wait for one to become available). If the kids need a break from being on the water, or you’d like to paddle on your own, there’s a swim beach they won’t be bummed hang out at. Admission to the park is $10 per car.