Latest News

Introducing Kids to Sailing

Introducing Kids to Sailing

With so many warm, sunny days per year, it is no wonder that South East Queensland is a hub for sailors. There are dozens of sailing clubs spread across the Gold Coast, Brisbane, and surrounding regions to get involved with.

If you love nothing more than getting out on your boat each weekend, you may want to introduce your children to sailing. However, to ensure the experience is a good one for them, it is imperative to go about things strategically. Here are some tips to think about when the time comes.



If you want your kids to have a great time sailing, make it enjoyable for them. Young ones do not care about the technicalities involved with sailing, so do not bombard them with too much information straight off the bat. Instead, let kids get familiar with the boat, and hop on and off multiple times and climb around. Once they identify being around a boat to be fun, you are off to a great start.

As the president of the Paradise Point Sailing Club, where a variety of sailing programs and camps for juniors are run regularly, John Murphy knows all about this. He says, “We’ve found that making a child’s initial exposure to sailing both simple in information and also a fun experience, is essential. For example, we make up funny rules like, ‘No smiling allowed!’ because it looks like the participants are having fun, and we jokingly say it’s not allowed. Of course, this just makes them smile more!”

It is also a good idea to wait to introduce your children to sailing until they are confident in and around the water. John recommends children to be at least five years old before they become junior sailors. He says, “Paradise Point Sailing Club has an official age restriction of six years for kids taking part in our sailing programs, but we do allow children of five years of age to participate if they show enough confidence on the water to feel safe while learning.”



To make the process safe and simple for children, choose the right types of craft to use when introducing kids to sailing. John explains, “We have found that small dinghies, like our Tera class boats, are perfect. They’re an easy one to sail, have simple rigging, and are self-bailing. This means that when they capsize, they come back up dry. The juniors can jump back in and are ready to go off again right away.”



To set your youngsters up for sailing success, equip them with all the essential gear for their needs, too. They must stay protected from the sun and other elements. John notes that whenever parents make enquiries, he and other members provide adults with a list of things their little sailors will need to stay safe. “We ask parents to outfit children with rash shirts, board shorts, rubber booties, and sunscreen. Plus, the Club also supplies each child with a safety helmet and a lifejacket (personal floatation device).”



Kids need to learn that safety comes first when sailing, so do not downplay this topic. John states, “Once the boats are rigged and ready, there is always a safety briefing where we discuss both safety on the shore and on the water. We conduct a demonstration of how to attract attention by raising arms, and we explain that when a boat capsizes, children need to stay with the boat. We also teach kids how to right their boat after capsize, and promote this procedure by allowing capsize practice at the end of on-the-water sessions. Doing these things promotes safety and is also a lot of fun.”



When you are introducing your children to safety, there are, naturally, not just do’s but also plenty of don’ts to consider. For example, John recommends that people never force young children to participate. He also advises, “Don’t expect instant understanding from kids of what they are attempting to learn. Plus, if you’re present during a training program or other professionally-run sailing session, don’t override the qualified personnel in the instructions they give.”



While you might like the idea of teaching your children to sail, it typically pays to send them off for some professional guidance at first to find their sea legs. Once they have some confidence, it will be easier (and much less stressful!) for you to go sailing as a family at that point.

John notes, “By booking children into a sailing program, the first thing they get is expert safety instructions both on water and on land from qualified and experienced staff. When participating in a learner’s program, such as our five-level sailing program, they have a steady pathway they can travel through at their own pace.

“As part of this program, children have access to our junior and senior instructors, who are there to answer questions and generally help kids navigate the structured five-level program. Furthermore, through a sailing school, participants can access a range of sailing boats. This variety of exposure helps them greatly in their future sailing pathway choices. It also means they receive ongoing support in the sport.”

Learning to sail is a process and will have its ups and downs for your child. But by following the tips listed above, you should find your youngsters enjoy their time out on the water and continue to be enthusiastically involved.

For more information about the Paradise Point Sailing Club’s sailing programs, visit



By Kellie Byrnes


Published in the August – November 2020 print edition.