5 Tips To Introduce Your Child to Surfing

5 Tips To Introduce Your Child to Surfing

Welcome to Good Wave

You’re about to embark on a journey of introducing your child not just to the surfing, but to nature!

As your child reaches the age of 3-5 years old and onward, consider these 5 tips to introduce them to surfing safely--written by parents, for parents

5) Find a Beginner Friendly Surf Break

We asked our community of mother & father surfers what makes them feel most comfortable with bringing their kids out to the catch their first waves.

Overwhelmingly, there was a winning answer to this question...

“A beach break!”

Until preschool (3-5 years) age, may not have developed the shoulder or arm strength needed to paddle entirely on their own, or for an extended time. This typically comes around 5 years old.

For this reason, a beach break is perfect for you to stand in chest high water starting out pushing them into the waves, encouraging falling as well as playful behavior (more on this later).

Here’s a breakdown of the main types of surf breaks:

  • Beach: Waves at beach breaks break on a sandbar. This is generally your best bet starting out.
  • Reef: Consists of jagged rock and/or coral underwater. Falling and feeling playful should be encouraged for children, so you want to find a safe place with a sandy bottom to do so. I.e. not a great place to learn!
  • Point: These breaks typically curl around a piece of land, which may also consist of rocks and other less than ideal beginner conditions. 

Conclusion: stick to beach breaks.

4) Best Children's Surfboard Size

There’s a lot of controversy as to what the ideal introductory foam surfboard size is. Chances are, the hundreds of articles out there will overwhelm you as it did us, without sharing the why behind these recommendations.

So here it is. A simplified rule of thumb (bookmark this!) for choosing a child’s first surfboard:

Choose a foam surfboard that is 12-24 inches taller than your child.

That’s it!

There should be at least 12-18 inches of head space and 6-12 inches of feet space, but this is an excellent rule of thumb to save and share.

Now you do have some options based on how long or short to go, but with our golden rule in mind, some parents have found these age guidelines to be helpful:

  • <8 years old: ~5-6ft
  • 8-12 years old: ~7ft
  • 12+ years old: ~8ft+

For a more in depth read, there may be some more pros & cons of board size.

Benefits of longboards
  • Family board that keeps on giving - a longer board will provide fun and re-usability for the whole family, visiting friends, etc)
  • Buoyancy/balance - generally, the bigger the board, the easier it will be to balance as well as catch a wave
  • Easier to paddle for >8 years old - as your child develops their arm and shoulder strength in the ballpark of 8 years old, they will be able to paddle a longer board much easier.

In other words, we do not advise buying a board more than 6ft starting out if you plan to eventually let them surf on their own while they are under 8 years old. 

Downsides of longboards
  • Decreased control - a longer board can be intimidating in the white wash as it is harder to hold onto
  • Harder to carry - similarly, a longboard is harder to carry on land, so you're likely going to be the one carrying the little ones' boards down to the beach

That was a lot. Let’s bring it back to the golden rule: Choose a board that is 12-24 inches taller than your child.

3) Best Children's Foam Surfboard Shape

Many customers first ask us, “Which shape should we buy” (longboard, fish, etc.)?

Although there is no perfect answer, you could start by asking yourself if you want to purchase a board for your child to use now, or grow into. Here's why.

Preschool through Early Childhood (5-8 years)

For preschool through early childhood age children ages 5-8 years, a "fish" shape in the 5-6ft range will be perfect.. providing a wide enough deck surface and more than enough buoyancy to support a child of 35-65 lbs.

Wait.. What’s a "Fish"?

A fish just means that the end of the board where your child's feet has a small indent in the middle, like a fish tail. 

Regardless of whichever fish, snake, bear or shape you choose (made those last few up), our trusted surfer moms and dads ALL agree that for children <8 years old, choose a shape that is under 23 inches wide.

Preteens & Teens

For children up to 12 years, consider funboard & longboard surfboard shapes. They will be able to carry these boards as far as they can from the car to the beach by this age.

For teens up to 18 years, a longboard will be best for balance and buoyancy. As they progress, consider upgrading to a fish shape for increased maneuverability.

2) Encourage Playful Behavior & Games

We touched on this earlier - it’s so important to encourage playful behavior when introducing your children to surfing. Encourage the falls! Keep it fun, celebrate the wipeouts. You want them to come to surfing, and that generally comes through games and smiles.

A fun (and efficient) game to teach is around 5-6 years old carrying their board down to the beach as far as they can. Make it a contest if they can bring it all the way from parking lot to sand. This is another reason choosing a shorter fish style board may make sense at this age.

1) Best Foam Surfboard Material

Our number one recommendation is, above all, make sure to consider a foam surfboard material for your child.

Your child may get dinged in the head with glass fins and/or both a denser and heavier board. Unfortunately over 300,00 children ages 19 and younger sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) every year in the US.. (brainline.org) choose a board that will keep your little ones safe.

In most sports, short of wearing a helmet, you cannot protect your child based on the equipment alone. Fortunately, you can alleviate some of these risks in surfing with proper gear, starting with a lighter, child-friendly foam board.

If that's not enough, a “bonus” benefit is that despite high quality and safety, foam surfboards are cost efficient, resulting in a lower price point and quality.

Now, it’s time to choose a design as unique as your child!

Pro tip - keep this children's surfboard sizing guide handy!

 Age (years) Board Type Board Length (ft.)
<8 Fish 5 - 6 (max width 23 in.)
8 - 12 Funboard 7
12+ Longboard 8

- Good Wave family




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