Water sports such as surfing or body boarding are enjoyed by all ages, including children and teenagers, and are a great way of getting fit and learning new skills. But as with any activity involving water, there are Safety Issues to take into consideration.
First and foremost, when a child is involved in any sport or activity that involves water, and especially the sea, then it’s crucial to ensure that they can swim confidently first. Having a good amount of experience with swimming, both in a swimming pool and outside in the sea, is recommended as the two can be very different.
If your child wants to try surfing, then it’s a good idea to have a lesson or tutorial from an experienced surfer. Many short taster sessions are available across the country, particularly near or on beaches.
As with any sport or outdoor activity, it’s important to have the correct equipment and not to cut corners when arranging it. If you don’t have surfing equipment, then it can usually be hired on a daily basis from a surfing shop – and there are plenty located within close proximity to popular surfing beaches.
A surf board is, of course, an essential, plus a leash, and it’s a good idea to have a wetsuit, regardless of the weather, to keep you warm in the water. Even in the hot summer weather, sea water can be cooler than you may think.
Anyone going surfing, whether a child, teenager or adult, is strongly recommended by safety experts to always do so with someone else. If anything untoward does occur, then there should be someone else to get help or raise the alarm. Pick a beach with a lifeguard and always surf between the lifeguard flags only, as this will be the safest part of the beach and sea.
If you do get knocked off your board and panic, then hold onto the board, as this is a great way of keeping you afloat and for helping a lifeguard spot where you are in the water.
Body Boarding Safety
If your children want to have a go at body boarding in the sea, then it’s essential that they’re accompanied by an adult. Not all areas of the sea on all beaches are safe, so if you’re going to try body boarding it’s important to always stick to life guarded beaches and to only use the area between the red and yellow flags, which are designated as safe zones for swimmers, surfers and body boarders. (See our article on Beach Safety for more tips and advice on staying safe.)
As with surfing, a short tutorial or taster sessions can be very helpful and is good for learning the skills and boosting confidence about body boarding.
When you buy or hire a body board, always ensure that you also get a leash and flippers and that the leash is worn when in the water. To help your own and other people’s safety, always make sure you’re not too close to other people, especially when you’re new to it, as crashing into them can cause accidents.
When in Trouble
Teach your children about what to do if they do get out of their depth, swept away or have any other unexpected problems in the water. It’s of course only natural to panic, but by keeping a level head and acting calmly, the severity of the situation can be minimised. It’s also vitally important to not let go of the board – and where the leash comes in – if you get knocked off the board, as it’s the board that can help keep you afloat if problems do occur.