Featured Activity: Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)

Published on July 06, 2020 - Updated on July 06, 2020

A fun family activity that combines full-body exercise with a healthy dose of serenity.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has only found widespread popularity and commercial success in very recent years. According to a study performed in 2015 (available here) the number of people who paddleboard nearly doubled in just two years, with 1.5 million reported paddleboarders in 2012 to around 2.8 in 2014. 

This exceptional surge makes sense, considering people of all ages and fitness levels can enjoy the sport, and the 2015 analysis only shows a slightly higher margin of male participants (51%) to female. 

With paddleboarding, your entire body benefits, as does your mind. Commonly described as relaxing, it’s a variety of working out that tones and strengthens over time, and most people who partake do it because it’s fun above all else.

Paddleboarding is accessible to everyone in one form or another. Basically, if your child is old enough to swim, they can give paddleboarding a shot. Most companies suggest 5 and older, but obviously circumstances impact comfortable age limits. 

Hitting the outskirts of a local lake is a good way to start. Where the water is flat, children of all ages can sit casually with their parents standing or kneeling to guide the paddleboard. Babies can even join in the fun if you have an appropriately stable paddleboard. Just remain seated with the baby between your outstretched legs if necessary.

In bodies of water with greater depth, waves, or the potential for a whitewater or unexpected rocks, an additional layer of caution is needed. Little ones capable of jumping from the side of the pool with a floatie on will love riding the front and can handle extra movement if they have a strong sense of balance. 

Paddle board child.jpeg

In addition to the fun factor, we cannot think of a single better way to get out into the world while maintaining a safe physical distance from others during the summer of COVID-19. Let’s be honest, even those who can’t seem to respect the importance of personal space don’t have a choice out on the water if they plan to stay afloat!


  • Paddleboard (There are a number of things to consider before you pick one, so check out this article on finding the best board for you at Backcountry.com.)
  • Paddleboards come in a variety of price ranges and materials to suit your needs. From inflatable to aluminum to fiberglass, all have their strengths and gaps. Fiberglass is lighter but stiffer and less durable, and carbon is most expensive but easiest on the joints. 
  • SUP Leash
  • PFD: There are so many options for a personal floatation device, and it is not only important to consider the age of the paddleboarder, but also swimming strength. 
  • Dry bag for your cell phone.
  • A whistle (required by the USCG to warn other boats when SUP in areas not designated for swimming or surfing).


US Coast Guard Regulations:

  • All paddleboarders 12 and under must wear an approved PFD.
  • Paddlers 13 and over must have a PFD with them that is the appropriate size (PFD belts must be worn).
  • Must carry a whistle to warn oncoming boats.
  • After dark, paddlers must carry a flashlight, also to warn boats.

For some extra fun, create a scavenger hunt for your adventure - it keeps things interesting! Items vary based on where you are, but a few ideas include a buoy, a brightly colored bird, a reptile, a rock with a point, a unique tree, a cloud that looks like something specific, etc. 

Whether you hit the open water, white water, or tour your area’s natural beauty from flat water, paddleboarding can be lifechanging for many people who want to bring more exercise to their lives, but simply haven’t found a form that suits them. You don’t like to sweat? Take a dip in the water. 

Juggling family life and work can leave little time to take care of your own exercise needs. In times like these, finding family activities that are both fun for the kids and good for our bodies and minds is more important than ever.

Additionally, when you choose an activity that is fun for the whole family and makes you all feel good, it elevates enthusiasm and positive attitudes. Some of my least exercise-oriented friends have developed a love of paddleboarding when doing it with their kids, and SUP yoga classes are even popping up all over! 

SUP yoga.jpeg

Give it a shot. You’ll be giving yourself and your kids an amazing gift - we’ll see you out there!!

Do you have a favorite place to paddleboard with your kids? We love to hear from you, so please reach out to us at share@happyly.com and tag your highlights @gethappyly.

For more inspiration, check out another recently featured activity, Find a State Park Near You and maybe you’ll uncover the perfect place to paddleboard! Feeling even more adventurous? Take a moment to Discover the Wonderful World of RV Travel.

Enjoying our content? Please download the free happyly app, the country’s only mobile-first family activity planning app, for fast access to all of our frequent blog content, favorite activities, and expertly designed curated days, both locally and in many communities and travel destinations across the country.

Thoughtfully captured by:
Randi Banks
Randi (Betts) Banks grew up in New York and graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She moved to Washington, D.C. more than thirteen years ago with her husband, Eaghmon, and they love to explore the area and seek out adventure, now with their two young children along for the ride. Growing up right near the beach, they are happiest when on or near the water, so exploring the rivers, lakes, and streams in the greater DC area is a favorite pastime for their family. In addition to serving as one of the Washington, DC area ambassadors, Randi is also the Editor in Chief and Co-founder of happyly.
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