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Citizen Enfants

The UK's Best Watersports For Children This Summer

Summer in the UK is wonderful for many reasons, spending time on – and in – the water is one of them. These are the UK’s best watersports for children. 

From riding waves on Devon’s most beautiful beaches to coasteering in Wales or dolphin spotting in the Hebrides, these seven water-based activities are an ideal way for you and the family to make the most of the wonderful British coast and inland waters this summer.


Sailing is a wonderful sport for children. From as young as six, they can start learning on small dinghies and progress to much bigger boats in their teens. As well as a fun hobby, they’ll start to learn seamanship skills that may lead to competitive racing in the future. Learning to sail usually takes place between spring and autumn on lakes and at sea anywhere from the Isle of Wight to the Outer Hebrides. 

The best way to start is by joining the Royal Yachting Association’s (RYA) National Sailing Scheme – a series of short courses usually completed in small dinghies, suitable for the size of the sailor. Children can start from age six onwards with tailored courses, including those for  differently-abled children. Following the RYA’s structure, kids can progress quickly from beginner to expert in a controlled, safe, enjoyable environment. These inspiring courses are the first step to enjoying time in charge of a boat – and to giving kids water confidence and awareness, alongside hours of fun.


You don’t have to travel overseas for great surfing. In March 2022 North Devon was announced as the 12th World Surfing Reserve joining iconic surfing locations in California, Australia, Mexico and Portugal. This world-class surf zone is the first of its kind in the UK – and the only cold water one in the world. It stretches across approximately 30 kilometres of coastline, including the beautiful beaches of Croyde, Saunton, Woolacombe and Lynmouth. Catering to wave-riders of all ages and abilities, it’s the perfect place for kids to learn to surf. 

Surf schools in the area teach beginner skills, and guide children as they gain confidence. Those as young as five can start on small waves and fully-qualified instructors know when conditions are right for kids to be in the sea – no need to worry about youngsters finding themselves in rough waters. Cornwall also has some wonderful surfing sports including Watergate Bay and Sennen Cove.


Coasteering is quite possibly the most exciting sport you can do around the British Isles. This increasingly popular high-adrenaline activity involves clambering up rock faces, exploring caves, riding waves and even jumping off cliffs. It’s safe to do from the age of eight, so long as you’re with a trained instructor who knows and understands the shore line you are exploring. Grab your wetsuit, buoyancy aid, hard hat and old trainers (to help you grip to the rocks) and join an organised group to begin. 

The adventurous nature of coasteering is ideal for older kids and teens and most specialists tailor sessions to make them suitable for families. Wales has some of the most ideal coastlines for coasteering: check out Anglesey Outdoors or Celtic Quest Coasteering in beautiful Pembrokeshire. The nearest venue from London is Dancing Ledge on the Jurassic Coast where Dorset Coasteering offer group and private family sessions as larger outings. 


If you can’t get to the coast there are some great places inland to have fun on the water too. Wave near Bristol is a ground-breaking inland-surfing destination home to Europe’s first full-size surfing lake; it’s around the size of four football pitches and provides up to 1,000 waves per hour, generating heights between 0.5m and 2m. The lake is split into different areas to suit all abilities. There are also great onsite restaurants, making this a fun family day out.

Just outside of London, Thorpe Lakes offers an array of watersports such as wakeboarding, water-skiing, paddle-boarding and swimming. Kids over six can take lessons (accompanied by an adult) as well as enjoy the aqua park packed with inflatables. 

Against a backdrop of mountains and forests Adventure Parc Snowdonia is an inland surf centre in north Wales with man-made waves across beginner, intermediate and advanced zones. Plus there’s a new Adrenaline Indoors adventure centre including climbing walls and artificial caving, for when you’ve had enough fun on the water. 

White Water Rafting

If you have thrill-seeking older children, book them in for white water rafting. Surfing huge rapids and navigating a craft through tricky rivers, this is a challenging but incredibly fun activity. A raft typically holds eight to nine people including the instructor, and it’s entirely possible to take on some fairly big rapids without prior experience as long as you have the right kit (wetsuit, helmet and buoyancy aid) and a fully-qualified guide.

Rafting locations can be found all over the UK. One of the best is the National White Water Centre in Canolfan Tryweryn in North Wales. Here, rafting takes place on grade three to four white water – which to the uninitiated means great, but still easily manageable rapids. The River Blackwater route on the Irish border has plenty of drops and rapids, but is still suitable for beginners: Awol Outdoor Adventure run instructor-led day trips. In the Scottish Highlands, Ace Adventures run rafting sessions on the scenic River Findhorn with up to grade five rapids  – this is for those looking for a real challenge.

Sea Safari

You don’t have to head abroad for spectacular water wildlife spotting; there are plenty of opportunities right on our shores. Sea safaris set sail from coastal villages across the country to see dolphins, seals and an array of seabirds, such as puffins and sea eagles. You may also sight whales, porpoises and even sharks, depending on where you are and the time of year.

Padstow Sea Life Safaris run daily trips in Cornwall as well as longer excursions to the beautiful Isles of Scilly which is teaming with wildlife. In Devon check out Ilfracombe Sea Safaris who have a luxury 12-metre Swift Catamaran for dolphin watching – there’s even the opportunity to jump in and swim with seals at nearby Lundy Island (suitable for those who are age 10+ and confident swimmers). In Scotland, Seafari Adventures will take groups around the stunning Highland coast to spot wildlife and to visit the puffin colony on the remote island of Iona.


Anyone looking for a fun waterside activity with very young children (who aren’t yet able to grab a surfboard or hop on a boat) should try rock pooling and coastal foraging. Little ones will love searching for living treasure and seashells. Wembury in south Devon is one of the UK’s top rock pooling spots and the Wembury Marine Centre runs rockpool safaris for all ages. Expect to uncover fish, Velvet Swimming crabs, Cushion starfish and spawning Beadlet anemones.

Learn about marine life, types of seaweed and how the tides affect the environment on one of Really Wild’s family foraging courses on the Pembrokeshire coast. Or join one of the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s wardens on a ‘rockpool ramble’ in Kimmeridge Bay to discover everything the local seashore has to offer. Children will be taught how to look after marine life as they explore the pools teaming with sea creatures.

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