Sailing and paddle-sports instructors often focus on making the dinghy, canoe or kayak a happy environment by throwing balls around. Kids familiarise themselves with the roll of the vessel and the movement of currents through simple games. Putting effort into swimming definitely ensures a confident start to all kinds of boat and board sports.
Learn on land: If your child has had a go at any other sports where balance is key, then they’re already well equipped for any board sport. Whether you’re wind-surfing, surfing or wake boarding you’re well advised to hire the gear, ensuring it’s a manageable size and not off-putting. You can keep building skills in between the coastal and lake holidays with badminton, rock-climbing, gymnastics - anything where balance is honed. Investing too much money in gear upfront could cause friction, and water-sports tend to demand both lots of gear and big time commitments. Do as much on land - near home - as you can.
Confidence-boosters: Once you’re on the water, keep it fun and light-hearted. Make sure to break up the technical drills with ball games or swimming and diving races. A low-barrier introduction to any board-based water-sports is cable wakeboarding, where beginners come on in leaps and bounds, building a real sense of achievement early. Unlike water-skiers, wakeboarders are hoisted up with relative ease by the cable, and can enjoy working on tricks much sooner. It’s a real confidence-booster, and kids get a taster of how much fun water-sports can be. This can motivate them later on when they’re trying technically harder sports.
Another confidence-booster for kids is knowing that adults have faith in them. Constant monitoring is counter-productive. As the ocean is a seriously dangerous environment, you’re well off starting on lakes, where the adult is likely to be less anxious. It’s easier for you to let young paddlers or surfers try things out for themselves when the damage limitation is given.
Ask the community: Water-sports gear is generally sold by knowledgeable enthusiasts. Similarly the coaches are used to positive recruitment efforts as these are niche sports. Don’t be intimidated if you’re introducing your child to a sport which you’re not familiar with yourself. Shop staff or sports club members are likely to be both helpful and full of insights. If you are supportive about a board- or boat-based sport then you’re setting your child up for exciting adventure sports for life. Holidays are massively enriched if you can enjoy the coastline through sports and exploration, not just from the shoreline. Don’t be too focused on the type of equipment. Kayaking, canoeing, surfing, wind-surfing or sailing all require balance, strength, quick reactions and tactical thinking when taken to competition level. Family logistics is as good a reason to settle on a particular sport - if training facilities are nearby then that should trump most other factors. Your child will build versatile skills either which way.