Kids are stoked when they first get up on a pair of skis. The look on their face is pure joy! You can learn to ski at any age and it’s easy to progress from one watersport to another.
Every child is different. Some will be fearless, some cautious, others completely uninterested, or even scared of attempting it in front of others. It’s best not to force it, by watching others and getting confident in the water, they’ll be keen at some stage.
Here are a few tips that you might find helpful to get them started:
- Get them confident in the water first – swimming lessons, pool time, lake and sea time.
- Get them used to wearing a lifejacket (check the weight/size guidelines on the jacket to get the fit correct). Get them to muck around lake or seaside to get a feel for the lifejacket (try to always use the same one), with you watching. Encourage them to float and get the sensation of being held up by the lifejacket and how to turn themselves around from front to back..
- Use child sized skis/wakeboard if possible, especially if 8 or under, light or small.
- One of the first things that will happen is the kids will get cold. If kids are sitting in the water for a while it doesn’t take long for them to get chilly. Have a good fitting wetsuit, as warm as possible and this will help a lot.
- Get them tobogganing, biscuiting or even kneeboarding so they get used to being towed and falling off in the sea/lake (and realising that fish won’t bite them when they do!)
- Get them to put the skis/wakeboard on and off their feet a few times (in water, on grass or soft surface). Then get them to float in the water with skis/wakeboard on also (hold them for starters) and practice getting feet out too.
If you’re a boating family and your kids are water babies they’ll start off going on the biscuit (which they’ll never get too old for), have a go on the kneeboard, learn to waterski, move onto single skiing and eventually attempt tricks on a wakeboard.
When your child starts to stand up in the biscuit and you can tell they want a new challenge, there are so many options for them- kneeboarding, skiing and wakeboarding.
In the line of progression, especially for kids, kneeboarding is at the start. It’s super easy, kids just have to sit with their legs tucked under them and have their arms straight while holding onto the rope handle. If you’re in a ski lane you can do a beach start. The child can sit on the sand at the edge of the water, sitting on the kneeboard ready to go, the boat just has to take off. It is helpful to have an adult there with them to hold the nose of the kneeboard up when the boat does take off.
Deep-water starts are made a lot easier now that most kneeboards have a tow hook for the handle at the top of the board. Lye in the water with the handle on this hook, when the boat takes off and they are stable, get them to slowly start to sit up on their knees and strap themselves in. When they are ready, reach forward and grab the handle and they’re good to go!
Skiing is the next step for kids and they will love it! There are heaps of different kids skis which make learning how to ski easier. Most skis have the option of a bar, which attaches to both skis and holds them together. This will stop the dreaded fear of both skis going in different directions and makes controlling the skis a lot easier.
It’s best to teach the kids in a ski lane where they’re close to the beach and an adult can help them. It make it a lot easier for the child, especially if someone helps hold them up in step 3/4.
- Help put the ski bindings on the child’s feet.
- Walk them out into the water until they are just over waist deep so the ski’s don’t touch the ground when they lye back.
- Starting them off – there are a few good techniques – see what suits.
- Getting held in the water by an adult from behind, under the armpits
- Sitting on a ski seat (seat under water)
- Sitting on a ski biscuit
- Make sure some of the skis are out of the water, they have their arms straight and knees bent right up to their chest. The biggest mistake kids make is bending their arms when they get pulled out of the water, when they go to straighten them this creates slack in the rope and they fall off. It’s great to have an adult hold them in the water here, it makes it a lot easier for the child.
- By now they should be ready to go,. The boat should do most of the work pulling them out of the water. All they need to do is stand up, bend their knees slightly and keep their arms straight.
- When they’re up to begin with all they have to do is stand there and hold on. The more experience they get and the more confidence they have the more they’ll attempt to do themselves, like going over the wake.
A few more tips:
- Heaps of encouragement goes a long way with younger kids. It’s pretty easy to give up trying but if they have lots of people cheering them on, they’ll keep trying until they eventually get it.
- Have an adult in the water with them to help start off and to also swim out and get them if they fall off early.
- Have one adult instructing them – lots of people offering advice can often be confusing/overwhelming.
- Keep the instructions super simple/age appropriate. i.e for waterskiing its “arms straight/knees bent, let the boat pull you”, but as most kids bend their knees naturally, just tell them to keep arms straight.
- Have an experienced boat driver who can get the speed and timing right.
- Pick a calm day/spot. Don’t attempt it on a rough day/lots of other boats and wakes – you don’t want to put them off as it may take them a long time to be keen again. It’s also a bit stressful as a parent if your 5 year old is bobbing in the water amongst other boat users/rough water.
- Reassure them that IF they fall off you will be there to pick them up, and remind them that when the boat comes around to shore again, to let go! By watching others ski or wakeboard most of this will be instinctive.
If they’re wanting to try something different, chuck them on a wakeboard.
Let them float on their back in the water, knees bent and arms slightly bent this time. Again let the boat do most of the work by pulling them out of the water. However, as they come out of the water they need to push their front foot down and turn the board and their body to the side. If kids have never snowboarded or surfed before, it may take them awhile to decide if they are regular (left foot forward) or goofy (right foot forward). When you’re up make sure your hips and shoulders aren’t facing the boat, skiiers will often try and do this and that’s when you fall off. Put most of your weight o your back foot and enjoy the ride! With more confidence they’ll learn to ride switch-stance and able to cross/jump the wake.
Enjoy, it’s pretty cool when it all comes together and parents and kids will both be chuffed!
See you out there!