There is nothing like a summer day swimming on the lake with your best buds in tow. In the past few years my paddleboard adventures have grown from traveling alone to a toddler and now a dog too. It’s a bit difficult to make it enjoyable and fun for everyone, but I’ve developed a system that works for me and my family. Here’s what you need to get a kid, puppy, and all of your daily essentials on the water and still stay safe.
Ruffwear K-9 swim coat ($ 90)
Ruffwear’s K-9 float coat has been an essential safety item in my family’s SUP kit since we introduced our nine-month-old Catahoula to paddle a few months ago. So far, training to be a great water dog has mostly been successful, and this life jacket certainly played a role. Because it’s comfortable and easy to use – it slips over the head, buckles up and adjusts, and it doesn’t rub against her uncomfortably and has no pinch points – wearing it was a positive experience for her. She can jump off the paddleboard, swim freely, and climb banks without the life jacket getting in her way. When I need to lift her back on the board or help her ashore, the grip is strong and a breeze to grasp. She’s starting to equate the life jacket with fun, and that’s the whole goal of trips like this.
Thurso Surf SUP Kayak Seat ($ 70)
(Photo: Steve Redmond)
As a parent, Thurso’s lightweight and comfortable clip-on seat was the ultimate addition to paddling with my toddler. It’s probably the one thing that gets the most attention when we’re using it, and after seeing it in action, some of my friends with young kids have incorporated it into their setup as well. My inflatable paddleboard has D-rings on both sides so I can attach this seat to the first third of my board where my toddler is sitting.
What I like most about this seat is that it gives my child their own space on the paddleboard, and as anyone who has argued outdoors with a toddler knows, there are quite a few things to say about a few basic rules to be specified before performing an activity. A rule for us is where everyone gets on the board; My son knows where he is, my dog knows where he is, and there are no arguments about supposedly prime properties. It not only holds my child in one place, but can also hold on to the side straps if they need additional stability when rocking the board or dangling their feet in the water. But most of the time he just sits back, eats snacks, gives directions, and sometimes takes a nap.
Kokotat Hustle PFD ($ 139)
(Photo: Steve Redmond)
Anyone involved in water sports should know how to buy and wear a PFD. Some paddleboarders may prefer a belt-style inflatable device or a hybrid device, but I opt for an old-fashioned vest like the Kokotat Hustle. Since I paddle with a kid and a dog and I’m not a strong swimmer, I like to wear a vest as it’s one less thing to think about when the shit hits the fan (because it’s naturally floating and not needed will) provision). The Hustle is flat, comfortable, easy to paddle, and has that one feature that every parent will enjoy – pockets.
The side entry makes it a bit more tedious to put on than a front zipper vest, but the large front pocket more than makes up for it and offers access to small essentials that I have to have close at hand, such as my cell phone, dog treats, snacks for children and sunscreen. There’s even an internal mesh organizer and an additional small zippered pocket to stow even more important items like IDs and car keys.
The Hustle has padded shoulder straps, hugs the arms well and is made of soft fabric in the most important places to avoid chafing. Above all, the minimalist design does not restrict freedom of movement. As a type 3 life jacket, the Hustle is versatile and can be used for a variety of other water sports near the coast such as kayaking and canoeing. The unisex fit is wider than other comparable vests (sizes fit 32 to 55 inches), but bustier women could find a more comfortable fit with the externally tested Astral Layla.
Marjaqe waterproof 22L drybag ($ 36)
(Photo: Steve Redmond)
I especially like two things about this inexpensive Marjaqe bag: it keeps my things dry and it has backpack straps. For under forty dollars, this equipment has been proven under heavy use for over five years. I took it with me camping, hiking, paddling, and commuting, and not even a drop of water got in. The backpack straps are the key to me, because I usually drag a paddleboard, a toddler, a dog, and our daily necessities out of the car to the water. I just don’t have enough hands to hold a strapless dry bag in place. I also like that it has mesh pockets on the sides to quickly stow a water bottle or something else that doesn’t need to be kept dry.
Twenty-two liters is a comfortable size to carry all the needs for a day of fun, like a couple of microfiber towels, a picnic lunch, a water bottle, dog bowl, sandals, and maybe even a hammock. Another bonus is that it floats, unlike a classic backpack, which could sink all of your belongings to the bottom of the lake if they fell in. For a cheap Amazon find, this bag was a pleasant surprise.
NRS paddle wet shoes ($ 60)
(Photo: Courtesy of NRS)
In the Pacific Northwest, where I paddle, I have to wear water shoes for most of the year because my feet are notoriously cold and outdoor adventures in that part of the country sometimes require hugging the darkness. Available in both women’s and men’s versions, the NRS Paddle Wet shoes offer warmth and protection without bulk, making them a great choice for stand-up paddling.
A side zipper makes it easy to put on and the high-top design paired with three millimeter thick neoprene (not to mention five millimeter neoprene insoles) keeps ankles and feet comfortably warm all year round. These NRS booties are grippy enough to confidently step on algae-covered rocks, but not so clunky that you feel like you’re wearing big boots on the board. However, if you want to surf or spend more time with your body in the water, take a look at the Patagonia booties in this compilation of the best cold-weather gear for surfing.
Baby Bum SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Facial Stick ($ 10)
(Photo: Steve Redmond)
Sun protection is essential for a day on the water. Baby Bum’s mineral face stick is great for paddling as it takes up almost no space in your dry bag and since it’s a mineral roll-on it won’t leak all over if it accidentally opens like other sunscreens tend to. What’s more, it is fragrance-free, greasy, and does not sting when it comes in contact with your little one’s eyes. I always have this on hand to reapply when needed, usually every few hours or after a dip in the water.
Main photo: Ebony Roberts