Summer Sports For Kids: Learn To Sail at a Summer Camp

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Brendan

As winter slowly transitions into spring many parents are already looking for safe and educational programs for their children come summer. If you are struggling to come up with ideas for summer sports for kids, one well worth considering is sailing.

There are a number of different ways that you can get your child to try sailing. In fact, there are many summer sailing camps organized throughout North America, as well as other parts of the world, for children of all ages. As well as sailing camps, there are sailing courses available that can make the learning process an enjoyable and rewarding one.

Sailing is a great alternative if you have already tried other summer camp activities for kids such as tennis, soccer, swimming, or golf. What makes sailing attractive as a summer camp activity for children is that it is safe and the programs are conducted by professionals. Plus, the skills your child or children will develop, they will be able to use forever.

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Skills Your Child Will Develop While Learning Sailing

1. Focus, concentration, and discipline

The ability to focus and concentrate is a valuable skill everyone should have. By introducing your child to sailing they will learn this early in their lives and it will benefit them as they grow older.

With ever-reducing attention spans, getting your child outside and off their smartphone or tablet and into a sport where they have to focus and concentrate, while at the same time having fun, means that they will be stretched both physically and mentally.

2. Understand the Weather

When your child starts sailing, they will have the opportunity to learn a lot more about the weather than they currently know or understand. This is because they have to pay attention to it… something that they may not have really done before. These things will include identifying and understanding what weather patterns are and how conditions can quickly change.

They will see the sky and the environment in a very different way and be able to make decisions based on the size, kind, and direction of weather systems, for example. The knowledge of weather and how it changes improves their ability to adapt to situations around them and helps them to be more aware of their local surroundings.

3. Spatial Awareness

Sailing teaches children the ability to maneuver a small vessel between, around, and through various kinds of obstacles. They learn how to judge distances, make turns, avoid and prevent collisions and how to speed up or slow down where needed. This awareness of where they are and the room available for these maneuvers improves coordination and also can be applied in other aspects of their life… e.g. driving a vehicle.

4. Coordination

Boats are inherently unstable, so just sitting or standing on a boat can be challenging. Add to the fact that you have to keep a dinghy upright using your own body weight, as well as trimming sails and moving from side to side as you tack and jibe, this all improves hand-eye coordination and balance.

5. Confidence

Mastering how to ride a bike is a big deal for many young children. Being able to skipper or crew a boat solo at a young age is quite something else. Steering, docking, and sailing a boat of any size will give your child a great sense of accomplishment. It will also give them the confidence to take on many other tasks in their lives that they may not have considered possible prior to that.

6. Communication

Although there are a variety of boats that beginners can learn to sail on (from dinghies right up to yachts), you are never really alone. Even if your child is learning to sail in a 1-person dinghy, there will be others around them learning or to race against. They will build relationships as they learn and discover new things from others, and these relationships can end up lasting a lifetime. The communication skills and confidence gained from developing new relationships can affect all areas of their life.

7. Teamwork

Yachts and many dinghies involve multiple people as part of the crew. And the only way to successfully sail a boat of this type is through working efficiently and effectively as a team. Learning to work with and fit into a team is an important part of sailing, which is also transferable into other aspects of day-to-day life.

8. Responsibility

A large aspect of sailing camps for teenagers and kids of any age is that they learn the discipline necessary to keep a boat in proper working order and fit for operation. This includes how to properly rig and unrig a sailing dinghy which introduces the need to put and store things in their place. This encourages neatness, order, and additional skills related to good behavior in caring for things. It also teaches care and respect for other people’s belongings.

9. Safety

There is an element of danger with sailing of any kind. However, when kids are taught by experts, this risk is negated and mitigated. There are certain things that need to be looked out for, and specific equipment used to keep everyone on the water as safe as possible. This also translates into other aspects of life, making them more aware of the dangers in day-to-day life, helping them to be safe in the real world.

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Step-By-Step Learning With Summer Sailing Camps And Courses

Summer sailing camps are designed to introduce sailing basics. They are tiered in such a manner that follow-up programs and levels complement the skills and knowledge developed from previous courses. Also, depending on the specific course, programs can run for half or full days and run over a weekend or several days or weeks.

There are many different summer camps around, each having different formats. Some are dedicated sailing camps, while others can have a large array of sports and activities available, with sailing just one aspect. Finding the right camp for your child may depend on their preferences, or what is available to you where you live.

A general outline of a summer sailing camp according to age may look something like this:

Ages 6-7

Sailing basics are introduced along with age-appropriate ecology. This may include hands-on activities including time onboard a vessel sailing so they can get a better understanding of how a boat works, and what to look out for.

Ages 8-15

Older children learn the basics of rigging, sailing maneuvers, points of sail, and safety/recovery. All of these lessons take place in an environment that is fun and assists in making the children comfortable in a boat. It also promotes independence in a boat and sailing situation. For older children, these skills are tested with longer durations on the water.

Ages 11-16

Depending on the specific camp, the children in this age group may be introduced to more advanced equipment. They can then improve upon their existing skills and refine how they handle their boat. This phase is usually a longer camp which can run for up to a few weeks.

Additional Camps

Some sailing camps for teenagers feature racing programs to assist high school students who are part of a sailing team. This creates teamwork and fun competition between teams. The skills developed during these camps can be used well into adulthood.

There are also several camps that feature sailing programs to train for junior instructor positions. A junior instructor course can lay the foundation for a professional sailing career or any kind of sailing teaching application.

How To Know If Sailing Is The Right Summer Activity

Now that you have a better understanding of the basics of sailing as summer sports for kids, you need to ask yourself several questions before committing to a sailing camp for your child. Then you have to ask your child another set of questions to see if they are truly interested. If you end up with more positive responses than negative ones, then sailing may just be the right choice for your child.

Here are a few things that you, and your child, may need to consider:

  • Before you choose a sailing camp, you have to be able to fit it into your budget. There are many different camps and courses available, all with different price points as well as offerings.
  • You need to look and see how much time your family is prepared to devote to a sailing with kids program during the summer. Do you have to drop the child off every day, or do they stay on location for the duration of the camp? Do parents have to supervise?
  • You also need to decide how far your family is willing to travel for a sailing camp if there is not one offered locally.
  • If your child has expressed interest in a summer camp you need to discuss with them if they would prefer a day program or a sleep-over program, and if a half or full-day program is of interest?
  • You may have to also make a choice between traditional or sailing only camps. If your child wishes to attend a sailing only camp, then you may require choosing between introductory or intermediate skills development camp.
  • Your child may wish to master a boat themselves instead of being in a camp where several children learn together on a single dinghy.
  • Another question you need to have an answer to is if your child is looking to the summer sailing camp as just a form of recreation or if they are really passionate about developing their skills and desire to really master the sport.

Once you have contemplated and answered these questions, you will have a much better idea of the kind of program to try to fit with your specifications.

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Summer Sports For Kids Sailing Camps in North America & Abroad

Even before summer starts, there are summer sailing camps that are designed to help kids learn to sail already scheduled in many countries around the world, including in the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Switzerland, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean, and Saint Lucia. In the United States, around 24 states offer programs where three provinces in Canada do the same.

Some of the summer camps are dedicated to sailing, while others offer a wide range of different sports and activities.

Here is a look at just a few of the best summer camps around:

1. Ontario, Canada

Camp Kawartha Day and Overnight Camp in Douro-Dummer have offered programs in a summer camp format for both children and teenagers since 1921. This camp has a number of water and non-water sports and activities including sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, archery, guitar, and dance.

Camp Chikopi in Magnetawan has camp staff from all over the world who teach skills on the water through their water sports program to build confidence and independence. Sailing is one of their most popular sports, with over 22 Sunfish and a few Lasers. They also have two-dozen land-based sports for your child to learn, perfect and enjoy.

2. Alberta, Canada

The Northern Alberta Sailing College (NASC) provides instruction as a non-profit society. They use Lake Wabamun in conjunction with the Wabamun Sailing Club and the Edmonton Yacht Club. Programs include a sailing program for children aged 8-13 (Junior Program), a Youth Program for those between 13-17 years old, and an Adult Program for 16+. They use the Optimist for Juniors and the 420 (Youth/Adults) and are CANSail accredited.

3. California

Catalina Sea Camp in Avalon has been providing sea adventures since 1979. Their programs include a large number of different and interesting activities, ranging from Scuba certifications to sailing as well as Marine Science and Seafood Cookery. They have 1-week and 3-week camps for ages between 8-17 years old.

Stanford Summer Sailing Camp in Stanford utilizes US Sailing certified instructors who provide a fun, safe learning environment in a recreational program designed to assist all kinds of sailors with year-round programs including adult camps in the summer.

4. New York

The Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps in Glen Spey offers a combination of sports and traditional camps with over 75 years of experience. Campers learn to sail with the choice of participating in weekly programs of various sports activities led by professional-level instructors or broad-based general sports programs.

5. Sydney, Australia

The Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron located at Kirribillion Sydney Harbour has sailing camps/courses run throughout the year for kids and teenagers aged between 8-12 & 13-17. All courses are conducted by accredited instructors in a fun and safe environment.

6. UK

Wickedly Wonderful conducts week-long summer camps involving a large number of sports and activities. The sailing aspect is conducted in Laser Picos and instructions given by RYA sailors. Some of the other sports and activities on offer include kayaking, pony riding, pottery, talent shows, volleyball, etc.

The Appeal Of Sailing As A Summer Sport

Sailing is fun, relatively inexpensive and it teaches skills that can be carried into adulthood. The fact that it is also an Olympic sport may prove to be a goal for some extremely talented young sailors. Plus, as your skills develop, racing may become an option.

Sailing is also not limited to just one kind of boat. There are several classes for sailing as well as types of boats including many different types of dinghies (laser, moth, 49er), yachts, windsurfers, catamarans, and kite-boards. This allows you to grow and develop as a sailor, and switch classes/types of boats to learn new things.

Depending on individual interests, you can also be involved as little or as much as you like. Being involved with sailing can take many different forms:

  • It can be a casual pastime, where you just go out on the water every once in a while and enjoy a nice relaxing day out
  • You can be involved with serious racing, with racing held multiple times a week as well as state, national and international regattas
  • You can even become a professional sailor with the sport taking you all over the world, and even to the Olympics
  • You can become an instructor so that you can teach others how to learn to sail
  • Or you can just help out down at your local club.

The Added Bonuses To Sailing

In addition to the many skills you can develop through an introduction to sailing in a summer camp, there are additional benefits. They are related more to personal development and include physical fitness, relationship building by making new friends to sail and/or race with and share these experiences with, and a greater sense of self. Sailing can bring you all of these benefits plus so much more!

So if you are thinking of a summer sport for your kids, you may want to consider sailing as an option. Make sure that you check out the summer sailing camps mentioned above, or sailing courses in your local area for more tips on how to teach your kids how to learn to sail.

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About Brendan

Brendan has over 30 years experience sailing dinghies, yachts, and windsurfers, but has recently started Laser sailing. "I found it difficult to find all the information that I needed when I started sailing my Laser, and I am sure that others have had the same problem. So I combined all the information I could into this website to help other Laser sailors get the most out of this sport. If you have any questions or comments, let me know... I will get back to you as soon as I can."

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