With the exciting range of adventure travel companies out there, a whole new world of child friendly activity holidays is opening up to ordinary families, which were previously inaccessible simply because of geography. Now, with bespoke activity holidays to exotic destinations all over the world - whether it's skiing in Norway, canoeing in Canada, or water sports off the coast of France or Portugal - practically any adventurous dream your family has can come true.
A Surfing Safari
While not every high-energy sport is suitable for younger children, surfing is a very child friendly activity that you can actually build an entire holiday around. As with any travel involving youngsters, however, the degree it will be hailed a success can be directly related to the effort you're prepared to put in to ensure you're well prepared and take the right gear.
The last thing you want are complaints about being cold while in the water for long periods of time, and while you can hire wetsuits, if budget permits (and you're planning on making this an annual event) purchasing one for your child is the best idea. Fit and flexibility are the two important factors, so make sure you have the suit professionally fitted if you can. It should be easy for the child to manoeuvre into (full back zippers are best) and of an appropriate weight. Depending on the water temperature of your destination a spring suit (with shorter arms and legs) may be more appropriate than a full suit.
Rash Guard Vests
More suitable for warmer climates, a rash guard vest worn over a pair of board shorts offers protection from the sun and sticky surfboard wax, while allowing for freedom of movement in the water. If you're going somewhere really hot, a rash guard is probably better than a wetsuit.
On the other hand, if you're heading to a location where the water temperatures are pretty cold, for an extra inner layer of insulation you're well advised to outfit everyone with a set of polypropylene thermals to be worn under the wetsuit.
Not everyone is a fan of surf gloves, but for children and beginners they're actually a great idea – not so much for protection against the cold (although they do offer that), but because they enable a good grip when grabbing the edges of the board for popping up into a standing position.
Again, not everyone wears them, and they may not be the coolest piece of gear on the beach, but for younger kids especially they offer an extra level of protection.
Reef booties are must if you're going to be surfing in places where there's a lot of coral or surrounded by rocky beaches. Made from flexible and warm neoprene, you can choose from the regular sock shape, or comical looking split toes – which are popular with the kids.
If it's your first family surfing holiday, even if you're an expert yourself and taking along your own board, chances are you'll be hiring them for the kids. But, in fact, the best way for them to learn is to start out on a body board, so if you buy one at home to take with you, there's more of a chance they'll be able to practice and improve their surfing skills – even outside of the official lessons. They're light, cheap and most airlines allow them on as luggage at no extra cost (in an appropriate bag).
Sea Rescue Signal
For added peace of mind, a small (and very cheap) sea rescue signal that straps to the wrist is a good investment for every child. You can choose one that includes a whistle or a light or both, and if anyone gets caught in strong surf it allows them to easily signal for help.
First Aid Kit
Even the most child friendly activity comes with its risks of spills and scrapes. Make sure you pack a well-stocked first aid kit – but don't leave it in your suitcase. Keeping it at the bottom of your gear/beach bag is the best way of making sure it's on hand when you need it most!
Include Vaseline for chafing, antiseptic cream for minor cuts and scratches, aqua eardrops, waterproof band-aids, sun cream and sunburn gel, along with all the other usual essentials.
And First Aid for the Boards
Even if you plan on renting boards, it pays to have your own ‘Ding Repair Kit', which consists of some patches, sandpaper, applicators and epoxy glue. You don’t have to be an expert to repair small dings, and it's actually quite good fun for the kids to get involved in not only dinging their board, but repairing it as well!
There are not many children in the world who wouldn't get excited at the thought of an adventurous surfing safari for their next family holiday! Kit them out well, instil them with a sense of fun and excitement and it can become one of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences in their lives!
Richard Edwards is the Managing Director of Summit & Blue, an adventure holiday company offering independently crafted child friendly activity holidays for families to exciting destinations around the world, including France, Italy, Portugal, the USA and Canada. With unique itineraries and exciting activities like biking, hiking, white water rafting and canoeing, we create holidays for those looking for an experience a little more off the beaten track.