Malibu How To
Learn About Boating With Kids and How to Maintain Safety
Having raised three kids on dozens of different Malibu boats, team pro surfer Stacia Bank has learned a few things about boating with kids. These tips and tricks will help both you and your kids get out on the water with more fun and less frustration.
“Family time on the boat is my absolute favorite,” says Bank. “The number one thing to keep in mind throughout these tips is with kids of any age, boating is all about the experience for them. Do whatever you can to keep them engaged and you will have water babies for life.”
Toddlers and Boats
Guidelines: This phase is all about getting them comfortable with the water. And yeah, you get more water time as well!
· First of all, life vests are critical because toddlers are always on the move. Buy two for each kid (a dry one and a wet one) so they aren’t sitting in a wet life jacket all day. Keep a life jacket on at all times.
· When it’s time to start getting comfortable with the water, fill the ballast so your platform is at water level and bring some toys that have suction cups. Stick these to the transom and let your kids play so mom and dad can swim instead of just chasing toys.
· Keep a storage bin in the boat with all their toys. When you want to relax in the lounge, just pop the kid in the bin, fill it with an inch or so of water, add some bubbles and they will have a blast. This is an easy way to supervise closely without having to chase them.
· A baby jumper can be a life saver on the boat. The child can sit in it while the parents surf and everyone is having a blast.
Kids and Boats
Guidelines: Get music involved. You may have to listen to Baby Shark on repeat a few thousand times, but your kids will love having their own playlist while they boat. If you’re in a northern climate, consider investing in wetsuits for the kids. You’ll get a lot more lake days and a lot fewer grumbles. Never complain about adverse conditions, just make it an adventure. “Isn’t this fun? We’ve never surfed in the rain before! What do you think it will be like?”
· Get kids on the boat. It doesn’t matter if they want to use the time to do towed watersports or just swim, having fun on the water is the goal.
· When they’re asking for it, you can surf with them between your legs. There’s a whole video about that here. Just make sure it’s truly about the kids and you’re only doing things they are asking for.
· Start out with something like the EZ Ski where the success rate is 100 percent. They’ll be showing you their “tricks” and having a blast in no time. It’s all about getting them comfortable behind the boat.
· From here it’s all about kneeboards or a Zup Board. Buy the ones with the molded-in handle holder and forget about the strap. Have them start on their belly and they can progress to their knees when they are ready, but make sure you don’t strap them in.
· Get creative with them and let them ride whatever they want to. Kids are more invested when they helped come up with the idea, so if they want to try to surf with a boogie board, they may have a better time than their regular surf session.
· Avoid the temptation to take a long surf session while your kids watch. It doesn’t matter how good you are, they will definitely get bored on a long enough timeline and it will ruin the experience for them.
· Kids can’t get enough of riding doubles. If they’re wakeboarding at slow speeds, you might want to use your surfboard or something with more buoyancy so you don’t have to work as hard because kids definitely don’t tire out easily. Get some games going where they spray you or you play P.I.G.
· Swimming breaks can be just as fun. Try a game the Bank family loves: Get something with just a little buoyancy (like a crumpled-up water bottle or a golf tee) and have someone swim it down as far as they can get it while the others stand on the platform and wait for it to surface. First one to get it wins!
· Take turns jumping off the platform playing P.I.G. And remember, style points count!
Teens and Boats
Guidelines: There are no hard and fast rules here because every kid has developed their own (strong) personality by this point. These best practices can help though.
· Set a good example by staying off your phone while you’re on the boat. Keep the family engaged and the energy up, none of which happens with your nose in a phone. It’s hard to ban phones in the boat these days, but consciously making an effort to stay off them will help teens stay away from theirs as well.
· Keep kids who aren’t riding engaged by putting them on DJ duty or rope tending. The goal is to keep them from just sitting there and getting bored.
· Try new things behind the boat. It’s a great lesson for kids to watch their parent try something new, fail at it, then try again. Bring out an ocean-surfing longboard and try to get your toes to the nose. Or a standup paddle board. Whatever gets you falling (and the kids laughing and asking for their turn) is a good thing.
· Surf doubles on the same wave, and even try to switch places. It’s harder than it looks.
· Surf doubles with two ropes and play P.I.G. This works at any level and you’ll be amazed how much more engaged the kids are when they aren’t riding by themselves.
Bonus tip: Snacks and Boats
The best boat snacks are relatively clean and require very little prep, like nuts or crackers with lunch meat. Get containers with no-spill, silicone travel tops for easy access without the mess. NEVER allow Cheetos or milk in the boat. The cleanup is just not worth it.
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