20 Best Family Watersport Activities to Try This Summer

July 16, 2021

Beat the Heat: Watersports to Try This Summer

For many of us, summer is synonymous with water. Nothing brings us back to childhood like the cool relief of jumping into a lake, pool, ocean or river with the summer sun shining overhead.

Watersports are one of the best ways to stay cool while camping. No day is too hot when you’ve got a place to take a dip — so, in celebration of the fun days ahead, consider trying out a new watersport this summer. Whether it’s swimming laps, waterskiing or kiteboarding, you’re sure to find something new to try. There are also plenty of water sports families can do together, making it a great way to get quality time in with your loved ones.

Here are some watersports that you might want to try out this summer – from traditional favorites to unique, new opportunities:

1. Waterskiing

Anyone who has finally gotten up on waterskis knows the feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment that you feel. Waterskiing is a full-body workout, from gripping the tow rope to keeping your legs underneath you. But being at standing height, with your skis cutting the water as it zips underneath you, is a unique joy.

Once you get your balance down on two skis, it’s worth it to try dropping a ski and slaloming. Doing so is akin to taking the training wheels off your bike. You can turn on a dime, jump the boat’s wake, and send up walls of spray.

The key to getting up on either one or two skis is this: keep your skis directly in front of you with your knees tucked up against your chest. The farther you extend your knees, the harder it is to get up. Staying crouched lets you pop out of the water more quickly and with less effort.

2. Wakeboarding

Wakeboarding is to the water as snowboarding is to the snow. It is easier to get up on a wakeboard than skis, largely due to the greater surface area of the board. You start with the board directly in front of you and your feet at equal heights. As the boat pulls you forward, you will naturally swivel to let your leading leg go forward.

Wakeboarding is the ultimate sport for those who want to try jumping the boat’s wake. A wakeboard has a great amount of “pop” to it. That is, as you ride up the slope of the wake, it naturally wants to hold and release the tension, giving you as much air as you’re willing to try for. Don’t worry, though — wakeboarding is great fun even if you’d prefer to stay “grounded,” so to speak.

3. Kneeboarding

If you want to get up on your first try, consider kneeboarding. This sport involves resting on your knees on a teardrop-shaped board, with a strap over your thighs to keep you secure. As with skiing and wakeboarding, you hold onto a tow rope and go back and forth over the boat’s wake.

The more adventurous you are, the more you’ll be tempted to try getting a bit of air off the wake. Be aware that you’ll have less shock absorption on a kneeboard than on a wakeboard, since your body’s suspension system — in other words, your knees — is locked onto the board. You can handle the landing one of two ways: by landing tail-first at an angle to absorb some of the impact, or by clearing the wake completely and nailing the transition on the other side.

Feeling adventurous? Try doing a 360-degree turn on a kneeboard.

Kneeboarding is easy to pick up and is an absolute blast for anyone looking to rip around the water behind a boat. Compared with waterskiing and wakeboarding, it is by far the easiest tow watersport to pick up.

4. Surfing

Surfing has been around for thousands of years and has made an appearance in many cultures. From South America to Polynesia, there is evidence of people catching waves both for fun and for fishing since pre-history.

If you are near the ocean, there is no time like the present to try surfing for the first time. It involves long stretches of waiting for the right wave, but when that wave comes, there is no feeling quite like it. You eye it as it rises behind you. You paddle along with it, giving a few more paddle strokes than you think you need, and voila — your board locks in. Away you go, riding the force of the wind and tide toward the shore.

Surfing is fun for the whole family, as long as the children are big enough to ride a board and the waves are not too big for them.

5. Bodyboarding

Similar to surfing, bodyboarding involves catching a wave aboard a floating board — only this platform is made primarily of foam. Also known as a boogie board, it is not meant for standing up. Bodyboarding is an excellent alternative for those who aren’t quite ready for surfing or when the waves are a bit smaller.

Just wait for a wave that’s just about to break, paddle to catch it and then ride it all the way to shore.

Bodyboarding is also great because it requires a very small investment in equipment. Rentals are cheaper than surfboards, and buying one will not put you back more than $20-30. You can also really ride the waves with a bodyboard. By digging in your elbows and leaning to either side, you can cut side-to-side and move along the wave as you would with a surfboard.

Bodyboarding is a great options for children and adults for all ages.

6. Body Surfing

Body surfing is a great option when the waves are right, and you don’t have a board available. Many people prefer body surfing over bodyboarding or regular surfing — it combines the fun of catching a wave with the relaxation of swimming.

The more surface area your surfing “apparatus” has — whether it’s a board or your body — the easier it is to catch a wave. That means body surfing takes the most effort to truly catch the wave. Bodyboarding is easier as far as catching the wave goes, while surfing can be more difficult to sustain the ride once you catch a wave. That doesn’t take into account the degree of technique needed for each sport.

Don’t let the extra effort required for body surfing dissuade you, though. There is something undeniably elegant and beautiful about catching a wave with nothing but your body. It’s a fun pass time that requires no additional equipment and gives you and your family an excuse to spend some extra time in the water.

7. Canoeing and Kayaking

If you’ve got a lake or river nearby, there is nothing better than hopping in a canoe or kayak and paddling around to see what you can find. Canoes and kayaks have been around for a staggeringly long time — Carib Indians in the Caribbean carved out tree trunks to travel between islands, while the Inuit used kayaks for hunting and transport.

The best part about kayaking and canoeing is the quiet it brings. With nothing but the sound of your paddles lapping the water, you can travel in blissful peace to every nook and cranny of the lake, river or other body of water that you are exploring. Pack a picnic, explore hidden coves and travel up and down rivers.

8. Stand-up Paddleboarding

In the last decade or so, stand-up paddleboarding has gone from a curiosity to an obsession for many. It is even making its way into the realm of the Olympics. You stand on a very buoyant and surprisingly stable board – very similar to a surfboard – and paddle your way across lakes, rivers and oceans.

One benefit of stand-up paddleboarding is that it gets rid of the sitting element of kayaking and canoeing, which can hurt some people’s backs after a short while. You can even pack a picnic in a waterproof bag and sit on your board to enjoy it. Stand-up paddleboards can also double as surfboards, though they are less nimble due to their larger size.

9. Fishing

Fishing is a favorite pastime for many. Whether you are fishing to eat or to catch and release, there is something enchanting and rustic about casting a line into the water and seeing what nibbles.

Each type of fishing has its own techniques and equipment. There are lake and pond fishing, river fishing, ocean fishing and reservoir fishing. Fishing in rivers and lakes is considered one of the most relaxing forms of fishing. It can be done in a kayak, canoe or on foot. Make sure you have the right permits to go fishing — check local hunting and fishing authorities to make sure that you have all the permits that you need.

10. Windsurfing

Windsurfing is a surprisingly easy sport to pick up. With the right location, which must include steady winds, you can be sailing back and forth on your own in a matter of minutes. It is also a great way to get in shape while honing coordination, as it requires precise movements to maintain balance.

Because wind and waters are always changing, windsurfing never quite gets boring either. Every day brings new conditions, new waves and new speeds. This has attracted a robust community to windsurfing, one that you can start to get to know as soon as you get into the sport yourself. People often windsurf in groups, though you can just as easily try it out on your own.

11. Kiteboarding

Kiteboarding sometimes gets confused with windsurfing, but the two are fundamentally different. In kitesurfing, your feet are attached to what is essentially a wakeboard. Your kite is more like a parachute, and you are holding on to a tow bar to manipulate the kite in the air. You can travel at a good clip across the water, get air off waves if you so choose and just enjoy the feeling of wakeboarding without the boat.

Kiteboarding has its origins in a 1903 voyage across the English Channel. A man named Samuel Cody invented a “kite” that allowed him to pull his own lightweight boat across the body of water. The current iteration of the sport was born in 1977 when Dutch sportsman Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuis invented the modern kiteboard setup.

12. Sailing

Sailing doesn’t have to be on a large, expensive boat. It can be done on a small catamaran, which is made of two pontoons with a canvas mesh in between. This small boat allows anyone to zip over the water with the wind in their sails. Additionally, many places offer sailboard rentals aimed at getting families out on the water.

If you’ve never sailed before, you’ll love taking a course on sailing — there is a whole lot to learn, and figuring it out makes you feel accomplished and connected to the generations of people that have used this as a method of travel.

13. Jetskiing

A jetski is the motorcycle of the open waters. Depending on which state you’re in, you’ll need to look into what license is required to drive one. Once you’ve gotten that taken care of though, though, prepare for an unforgettable good time.

Jetskis allow you to jump waves, turn on a dime, go for spontaneous swims, explore water that is too shallow for boats with propellers and experience the sensation of traveling at a good speed on the water. Your speed on the water feels twice as fast as it actually is.

Jetski rentals are popular and these watercraft are readily available in many places for those who want to try them.

14. Parasailing

Parasailing is something that everyone should try at least once. You get to sit in a small plastic vessel, strapped in as if you’re about to go on a car ride. This vessel is attached to the back of a powerful boat by a retractable line on a wench. As the boat takes off, a giant parachute behind your vessel catches the wind and begins to lift you into the air. An 800-foot line will generally lift passengers 500 feet in the air.

You owe it to yourself to feel the sensation of soaring through the sky, hundreds of feet above the water. Much like being in an airplane, but far more fun, it allows you a view over the world below that you wouldn’t get otherwise. The boats on the water will look like grains of rice on a blue tablecloth.

Parasailing is exhilarating but not scary. It is gentle and everything happens fairly slowly. You’ll certainly come down in a calmer state than before you go up.

15. Skimboarding

If you find yourself near the ocean, skimboarding – also called “sandskimming” – is a great sport to try. The board is much smaller than a surfboard, and there are little in the way of hazards other than the risk of falling in the sand a few times. Luckily, it will be on soft, wet sand under shallow water.

To skimboard, find a relatively flat beach and wait for a wave to come in and begin to roll out. You’ll need a thin layer of water on the surface. If it’s too deep, the board will not skim properly. Run parallel to the beach, drop the board on the water, and “run” onto it. Don’t jump on, but rather step onto it with the intention of evenly distributing your weight. Bend your knees and ride it out.

You can also skim on waves, which involves jumping on your board and heading out toward a wave that’s about to crash. Turn around sharply on the wave and surf it as if you’re on a surfboard.

16. Swimming Laps

A sport that lets you maintain an elevated heart rate while minimizing impact is rare. Swimming is exactly that sport — it is a full body exercise that has a number of health benefits and very little downside as long as you don’t mind getting wet. Whether you are swimming laps in a beautiful pool or doing so in a lake or ocean, you’ll love the effect it has on your body.

Swimming increases your endurance, your musculature and your heart health. It is a fantastic weight loss exercise that builds cardiovascular strength while boosting lung capacity. Your muscles will quickly get toned. Because you are using your arms, back, core and legs, you will find an equal distribution of toning all over your body.

17. Pool Games

If you grew up going to the pool in the summers, you were probably part of a world that revolved around pool games — Sharks and Minnows, Categories, Marco Polo, Fire on the Wall and more. Getting one of these old-time games going at the pool will be fun for both kids and adults. Enjoy a return to childhood as you race for the far wall or bob about trying to tag others.

18. Snorkeling

The ocean is full of wonders just below the waves. There are intricate and brightly colored coral reefs, schools of fish with glistening scales and rock formations the predate the continent. Try buying or renting a set of flippers, some good goggles and a snorkel, and go exploring.

This is one of the best watersports families can do together and is also one of the best watersports for kids. Remember to put sunscreen on your back, because floating around just under the surface of the water can actually magnify the sun’s rays.

19. Scuba Diving

Scuba diving requires a class and a certificate but is a lifelong pursuit that allows you to explore the hidden world beneath the waves. At times, scuba diving feels like exploring another planet — which isn’t that surprising, given that we have sent 12 people to the moon and only three to the deepest part of the ocean.

It is also a wonderful family activity. You can explore coral reefs while marveling at marine life like barracudas and manta rays. Different bodies of water offer different types of scuba diving. While freshwater diving is available in some places, most are based in saltwater.

20. Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater rafting is something families can try together when they go camping in the mountains. It allows for a guided experience that promotes bonding, teamwork and a unique mixture of cutting loose and hard work ethic. If you are looking to stay cool while camping, whitewater rafting is one of the best ways to do it. Whitewater rafting is sure to be an experience no one in your family will ever forget!

Stay Cool When You Stay at KOA

Many KOA campgrounds offer pools or are conveniently located near bodies of water such as beaches, lakes, rivers and ponds. Check specific campgrounds and the surrounding areas to see what new water adventures you and your family could try on your next camping trip!

If you are looking for a vacation idea, few options beat camping. For one, it lets you connect with the outdoors. Camping guarantees you will have that feeling of connection with the world outside. When you choose to stay at a KOA campground, that doesn’t mean you’ll lack conveniences, though — KOA offers a number of convenient amenities, such as:

  • Laundry facilities for washing and drying clothes
  • Playgrounds to keep the kids entertained
  • KOA store for last-minute necessities
  • Clean bathrooms with hot water

Additionally, many KOA campgrounds also offer the following:

  • Swimming pools
  • Planned campground activities
  • Pet parks
  • Unique lodging options, such as Airstreams and teepees
  • Options for group camping
  • Options for extended stays
  • And so much more!

KOA is dedicated to making your next camping trip one your family will remember for years to come. Reserve your next stay today!

Try these fun watersports.


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