How to Get Started Skimboarding With Kids

Skimboarding is a fun, active, and affordable way to keep your kids entertained on the beach. Skimboarding is gaining in popularity, and for a good reason. It’s a safe way to introduce your kids to the ocean, challenge their abilities, boost their confidence, and let them have fun! Today, Wendy Cox, photographer and California mom of four, is here sharing everything you need to know to get started skimboarding with kids. She’ll walk you through the benefits of skimboarding for kids, how to skimboard, tips for choosing the right skimboard for kids, and so much more! This post will make you want to get to the beach as soon as possible! 

beginner's guide to skimboarding with kids

Skimboarding with kids

Going to the beach as a parent is a far cry from the days when all you needed was a towel and a good book. Now, a trip to the beach means you’re schlepping shovels, buckets, towels, sunscreen, chairs, snacks, water bottles, an umbrella, and so much more through the hot sand. And then, when you get to the beach, your kids are either nervous of the water and afraid of the loud waves crashing on the shore or so interested they can’t stay out of them! And in the latter case, maybe it’s you that’s nervous about sending them out into the deep blue.

Either way, if you want to find a happy medium where your kids can play in the water but not be way out in the depths of the ocean, the solution you’re looking for is a skimboard. Skimboarding is a great way for kids to stay close to the shore in shallow water but still have fun.

What is skimboarding?

Skimboarding is a water sport, similar to surfing, where you can skid or slide across the surface of the water close to the shore on a small flat board. Skimboards are much smaller and thinner than surfboards, and they do not have any fins. Skimboarding happens in shallow water on the water’s edge, so there’s no need to go out into the water and wait for a wave, as you would when surfing. 

girl holding skimboard - skimboarding with kids

5 reasons to let your kids try skimboarding

1. Size of the skimboard is manageable

A skimboard is small and easy to carry. Have you ever tried carrying a surfboard from the car to the waves? It is not easy! Surfboards are large and heavy (and expensive). When carrying, I have to constantly readjust the surfboard and try to find a way to make it comfortable. However, skimboards are much more manageable for parents (and kids) to bring to the beach. Plus, storage is less of an issue with a smaller board, and they’re more affordable. 

2. Skimboarding gets kids familiar with the ocean

Skimboarding is a good introduction to the ocean for any kids (or parents) who might be apprehensive about surfing or swimming in the waves. For anyone not comfortable with waves and surf, skimboarding is the perfect introduction to help your child (and the parent) get more comfortable with the water and confident in their skills.

Skimboarding allows you to stay right at the shoreline. You can get a feel for the ocean without getting all the way in. Skimboarding is a great way to allow your kids to get a feel for the waves and how they break while still being able to touch the ground and stay close to the shore. They will feel the pull of the ocean and understand better how strong the water can be, while remaining safe.  Skimboarding is a great introduction to spending time in the ocean.

3. Cold weather approved

Skimboarding doesn’t require you to submerge yourself in the water like surfing or swimming. You can skimboard on a cold day and not get completely soaked or frozen. Once you have the hang of it, you can skimboard without even getting very wet. My kids have even gone skimboarding while wearing a sweatshirt! I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that, but it can be done. Our beaches on the West Coast can get chilly in the fall and winter, but often we can still skimboard in the off-season. 

skim boarding in a sweatshirt - how to skimboard with kids

4. Skimboarding is great for most ages

Skimboarding is great for kids age 6 years old and up. The basic techniques are relatively easy to master and you don’t have to be a proficient swimmer to be able to skimboard. When skimboarding, you don’t go very deep into the water, so it’s an activity that kids can enjoy before they’re advanced swimmers. We always recommend a life jacket or other floatation device and vigilant parental supervision for any child playing near water that can’t swim. 

The light weight and smaller size of a skimboard also make it easy for kids as young as 6 to use. Skimboards are much smaller than surfboards, so they can easily be used by kids 6 and older. If you have a child that’s younger than six that really wants to skimboard, it’s doable! Smaller boards are easiest for little ones to toss when getting started. You know your child best, so if they are younger but have good balance, athleticism, and agility, then let them give it a go.

5. Skimboarding is inexpensive

You can purchase a beginner skimboard for less than $25. While a professional skimboard can get extremely pricey, you don’t need the best skimboard on the market when you’re just getting started. Skimboards for a beginner are relatively inexpensive and will last for years when well taken care of. See our tips below for choosing the right skimboard for your child and what you should know before buying a skimboard. 

tips for learning to skimboardholding skim board

Buying a skimboard

Now that we’ve covered the basics of skimboarding and all the benefits, hopefully, you’re convinced to give skimboarding with your kids a try! If you’re ready to purchase a skimboard, there are a few things you should know and take into consideration. First, you’ll want to consider the size, weight, type, and shape of the board, as well as the size, age and skill level of the person who will be using it.

Skimboards come in a variety of sizes, so you’ll want to match the skimboard sizes to the rider’s height and weight, and ability. Here’s a good skimboard size chart with some great info on how to get the proper skimboard fit. When just getting started, let a professional at the surf shop can help you choose the right board, to ensure the child’s success, and maximize the purchase. Many shops offer this service free of charge.

In addition to size, you’ll want to consider the material of the skimboard. High-quality boards will last much longer and be less dangerous to use. Cheaper wooden skimboards can splinter, break, and can be dangerous to use. The main types of skimboards are wood boards coated in epoxy, foam boards, carbon fiber boards, and fiberglass boards. These are a bit more expensive than plain wood boards, but they are much safer and last for many years.  If a new board is out of your price range, try searching online resale groups for used boards.

Our family has two skimboards. They both have a foam surface on the top in order to get better grip and to avoid having to use wax. These beginner skimboards have worked well for us for many years. As my kids get older, we’re just now considering getting larger boards. 

how to choose the right skimboard for kids

Teaching kids how to skimboard

The most typical way to skimboard is to glide over a thin layer of water with the board parallel to the waves. This is the best way for kids to learn how to skimboard. Skimboarding can be easy to learn and pick-up on your own, but if you’re really into it, many surf shops offer group and private lessons, as well as skim camps. 

To skimboard by gliding, here are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Stand in shallow water where there are at least a few inches of water between the surface and the ground.
  2. Hold the skimboard in both hands, with your dominant hand on the base (bottom) of the board and your other hand on the top of the board.
  3. With the board parallel to the surface of the water, take a few steps and swing the board, then release it in front of you. The board should skim over the surface of the water. (It’s sort of like skipping a giant rock on the water with two hands.)
    • You’ll want to throw the board hard enough that it’s moving and doesn’t lose momentum when you step on, but not so hard that you can’t quickly jump on after a few steps. This part takes a lot of practice to perfect. 
  4. Take a few running steps behind the board and step onto the board with your non-dominate foot in front and your dominant foot in the back. You’ll want to step into the skimboard gently and not jump on top of the board (which will sink the board and kill the momentum). It’s similar to sliding on hardwood floors in your socks. 
  5. Now skim across the surface of the water! Repeat, repeat, repeat! 

young child skimboarding - kids skimboarding basics

Skimboarding into the surf

The more advanced way to skimboard is to skim yourself into deeper water and directly into the oncoming waves. This type of skimboard wave riding is great fun for older kids. You use the same technique as mentioned above but point the nose of the skimboard into the ocean. My 12-year-old prefers to skimboard this way. He loves to try new tricks, like getting air as the white water comes in. We’ve seen advanced and pro skimboarders do all kinds of spins, flips, and tricks this way. It’s something to work up to for sure!

skimboarding towards wave - skimboarding for older kids skim boarding at the beach

Skimboarding spills and falls

When your kids are just starting out with skimboarding, it’s important to let them know that they will inevitably fall down. Spills and falls happen. A lot. Many times when trying to step onto the skimboard, it pulls your feet right out from underneath you, and you end up flat on your back in the water. Expect some falls and prepare your kids for not only the crash (in the sand), but the fact that water and sand may get in their mouth, eyes, and nose. It can be scary for kids the first few times it happens. 

The plus side to falling off a skimboard is that, unlike skateboarding, the fall won’t be on a hard concrete surface. Wet sand is considerably softer than concrete, but can still hurt. Falling down is an important part of life in general though, so celebrate the fact that they keep trying even when it gets hard.

kid falling off skimboard


Choosing the best beaches for skimboarding

Some beaches are better for skimboarding with kids than others. Try to avoid beaches with rocky shores. Falling on a rock is not pleasant! Beaches with a lot of seaweed on the shore are also not ideal for skimboarding because the seaweed can inhibit the board from skimming smoothly over the water. You’ll also want a beach that isn’t super crowded so you have space to run and skim without running into others.

The best type of beach will have a long, soft sandy stretch of shoreline. Also, beginner skimboarders will have the best success at low tide.

Here in Southern California, we have some really great soft sandy beaches, but we also have rocky ones. We have to be choosy when we know we’ll be skimboarding. 

girl skim boarding

Benefits of skimboarding for kids

Skimboarding has so many health benefits for kids (and even for you)! Some of these benefits of skimboarding include:

  • increased balance
  • stronger legs and core
  • greater coordination
  • improved awareness of ocean/wave patterns
  • exposure to Vitamin D
  • strengthening of smaller muscles in the feet by running on the uneven surface of the sand

running with skimboard

Enjoying the beach while kids skimboard

I am currently reading a book by Wallace J. Nichols titled Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. How about that for a claim and title?! 

Do you remember how Jo took Beth to the seashore in Little Women when she was sick? In Jane Austen’s Emma, Emma’s sister Isabella wanted to take her children to the seashore for their health after a recommendation from her doctor. I think Mr. Nichols and all of those doctors were on to something!

I don’t know about you, but being near the ocean just makes me feel better and helps me to think more clearly. The ocean is both soothing and healing. It helps relax and inspires creativity. Just being near the water is good for your mood, spirit, and health. 

And while I sometimes wish I could take my kids to the beach just to sit and enjoy the beauty of it in peaceful silence, that’s unrealistic for parents of small kids. However, we’ve found that everyone is a thousand times happier when they have something active to do at the beach and we still get the benefits of being there, despite the chaos and all the activity! Going to the beach is always worth it for us. 

happy child skimboarding at the beach child skim boarding

Multi-purpose skimboard

My kids really enjoy skimboarding when we’re at the beach. It keeps them active and entertained for hours! It’s something that all of my kids can do, and it fits so easily in the beach wagon. However, we’ve also found many uses for our skimboards other than skimboarding! When no one is using the board to skim around, it can also be stuck in the sand as a makeshift backstop for a game of wiffle ball. The board is the perfect surface to put your beach treasures on, like all of these sand dollars my kids found in Morro Bay. We’ve used our skimboards as a tabletop for picnic lunches on the beach. 

skimboard as backstop on the beach holding skim board with sand dollars

Additional beach planning resources

The beach has so much to offer families! It’s a fun destination with the potential to make some unforgettable memories. Before your beach day, check out a few of our favorite posts about all things beach:

I hope you’re able to add skimboarding to your kids’ repertoire of things to do at the beach.

kid skim boarding at dusk

Have your kids ever tried skimboarding?

About the author

Wendy is a married momma living in central San Diego, CA, raising 4 human kids, 2 goat kids, 4 chickens, and one grumpy cat. She enjoys gardening, hiking, camping, backpacking, going to the beach, and generally getting out of doors. Wendy is a family photographer and also works at several local elementary schools as a garden educator. She dreams of traveling to all 50 states and beyond, and believes that there is great beauty to be found in all parts of the earth, we just have to open our eyes to see it.

You can find more from Wendy online in the following locations:
Instagram: @wendycoxphotography
RWMC posts: Wendy Cox

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