Most paddlers would like their children to paddle. Most paddlers are unsure of how to go about it, but they give it their best shot. Sadly, most paddlers fail.
Paddling is one of those rare sports that can be enjoyed from a very young age to a ripe, old age. For many, it is a lifestyle as much as it is a sport. Why do so few children get into paddling, and why do so many of those that do stop paddling when they finish school?
I have given this a lot of thought over the years, especially after my own children were born. The first question I often get asked when it comes to kids is: How young can they start? There is no perfect age to start paddling. However, you can literally start getting them on the water as toddlers, as long as you do it safely. This may be an extreme example, but both of my kids went on their first six-day Orange River expedition – in a large raft – when they were 16 months old. For them, spending time on rivers is the most natural thing in the world.
Most children are able to paddle forward and do basic sweep strokes from around six years of age. From the age of eight, they can start learning different strokes and if you are that way inclined, you can introduce them to moving water too. When they reach 10, they will enjoy playing on small ocean waves or running small rapids (assuming that they already have a good paddling foundation by that time). If you spend a lot of time on whitewater and your children show interest, you could try teaching them to roll from around 12.
These age milestones are merely an indication of what is possible.
How you go about it is much more important. What follows here are not hard rules, but rather a summary of things that I’ve learned….
READ MORE on this fab topic, taken on by Celliers Kruger from page 34 in Issue 5 of 2018: https://issuu.com/thepaddlemag/docs/tpm_5_2018