Summer Sailing for Kids

With Memorial Weekend behind us, summer has all but arrived. With it comes family vacations, trips to the beach, picnics in the park and the all-too-real possibility that your kids could get bored. Luckily, if you’re keen on introducing your children to sailing at a young age, community programs abound to transform their summer from average to adventurous. From Optis to windsurfers, there are sailing centers around the country that educate kids both on and off the water.

These clubs represent some of the best sailing instruction in metropolitan areas, but for parents of future sailors, we also recommend checking out your local yacht club.


The Lake Merritt Boating Center out of Oakland teaches children as young as seven how to sail, kayak, windsurf, row and even dragonboat! During the week, younger and less experienced campers may learn how to chart the lake in pedal boats and kayaks, while older sailors race in Optis, Hobies or Sunfish. In addition, a tall ships camp and a keelboat camp take junior sailors out of dinghies and into big boat sailing in the San Francisco Bay. A key perk for parents: both early morning and after-program care are available.


The Geneva Lake Sailing School operates out of Lake Geneva Yacht Club, one of the country’s most renowned clubs and a hub for Midwestern sailing. Over the course of seven summer sessions, children as young as four can learn to sail on an inland lake in Optis, 420s, O’pen Bics, windsurfers and even Sonars. Experienced sailors, ages 12 to 18, can also learn to trim spinnakers and manipulate the trapeze.


Texan sailors are lucky enough to have youth sailing programs available year-round, but the number of sailing programs doubles in the summer. At the Austin Yacht Club, sailors as young as four start their sailing careers in Optis and Picos, while older children experience Lasers and FJs, all in preparation for events associated with the Texas Sailing Association. A key perk for parents: Wednesday and Thursday nights feature informal racing programs for those sailors who hope to race with their children.


Home of the Orange Bowl Youth Regatta, Coral Reef Yacht Club is as established as they come in the world of Miami sailing. But many parents may not realize that youth sailing programs are open to children of non-members as well. With a focus on racing tactics, more experienced racers learn fleet racing as well as team racing skills, while every sailor learns how to both single-hand and double-hand Optis and 420s. A key perk for children: on-water time includes ample amount of play time in the pool.


In Boston, Courageous Sailing Center’s summer youth sailing courses operate by lottery registration for a reason. With a fleet of over 60 boats, the not-for-profit serves over 1000 area youth between the ages of 8 and 18 for free. While all education is focused around sailing and being on the water, the program also emphasizes team-building, environmental awareness and community. Key perk for parents: did we mention it’s free?

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