How to tandem surf with little kids


Today we’re talking about parent / child tandem surfing! Who else has wanted to try this?!!


I think we’ve all seen those aspirational images on instagram.

You know the ones that feature parents who are teaching their kids how to surf by just plopping them down on their own board & paddling them out the back.

I’ve done a bit of research on how these parents do it - starting with how the heck to get my kid comfortable in/around the board and listed them below for you!

I hope you find these tips actually useful for your next surf mission down to the beach and definitely let us know if any of these tips worked for you!


1. Make it all about having Fun!

Let’s be honest, the ocean is a massive and unpredictable place!

So, it’s not a surprise that some kids (including myself as a kid) are/were scared of it, especially the waves.

Help your child get comfortable in and around the ocean by first starting on the sand.

Introduce the board as toy first, let them play in and around it on the beach. We used to sit on our dad’s board and build sandcastles on it ( and I now cringe thinking about how much sand got in the wax ha).

Try to be as casual as you can about introducing the sport and eventually move onto seeing if you can encourage some dry land paddles and pop ups.

2. Learn to Swim + Use appropriate floatation device

I think it goes without saying this but your child should be a confident and comfortable swimmer before taking them out on a board.

If they are the micro groms (2-4) it is also helpful if they are wearing an appropriate lifejacket as well. Here is a short guide from REI on lifejackets for children.

3. Get a wetsuit for them

Comfort is key! Not only will this help to keep them warm but it will also protect their skin from board rash and bumps.

(Here’s how to choose a wetsuit for your kid. )

4. Build trust in the flat water first

Before paddling into any waves, play with your child in the flat water first.

Start with paddling them around.

Allow them to get comfortable being on the board, show them how to lay down and let them practice their balance.

Teach them how to move their arms and cup their hands for paddling.

Finally encourage them to stand and jump off when they feel ready to do so.

5. Teach your child to hold on tight & close their mouths when paddling up & over waves.

When you and your child are ready to start catching some whitewater together, place them closer to the nose of your board while you paddle out.

Teach them to hold on tight and to close their mouthes as you go up and over the waves to keep from flying off or water splashing into their throat.

Our dad used to “boost” us over the white water bits making the nose of the board go flying into the air and come crashing down the back part of the wave.

We had to hold on extra tight so we didn’t go flying off and it was something we thought was very fun! Allow your child to get comfortable riding the board.

When they feel ready you can pop to your knees and then assist them in standing up and riding the whitewater.

6. Place child sitting backwards (facing you) when paddling for a wave

I think think this tip is helpful for those of you with children around 2 or 3 who might get freaked out by water getting splashing in their face. You can help avoid this by placing your child backwards on the board while you’re paddling into a wave. As you go to pop up your child can reach up and grab onto your shoulders/chest as well which makes it easier for you to carry them during the wave if you plan to do so.

7. Fall Safely

The best way to fall off the board is to grab your child and fall off the back of the wave if possible.

As you come up to the surface, protect you and your child’s head/face with your arm incase the board comes slingshotting backwards or has flown into the air.

8. Always, always, always end on a good note!

This was a rule in our house and was such an important lesson for us!

Ending on a positive note keeps the surf fun and enjoyable for next time.

Sometimes short sessions with just a few waves under your belt are the best!

After every wave, give out high fives and congratulate your child for riding the wave so well!

For a visual check out this video of a Dad and His 4 year old Tandem surfing.