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What would you do to gets your kids interested in being on the water? Jeff Strang seems to have gotten his little one off to a good start.

The winning photo in the 2010 Club Marine Club Kids Fun Photo Contest. Moments like these can have a profound effect on kids and their perception of the water.

Recently, I observed my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter racing earnestly around the backyard dressed in a garish collection of pink-toned gym gear, all topped off with a ridiculously oversized head band. While not overly surprised by the outfit, the dedication she was putting into whatever was her objective piqued my curiosity.

My enquiry elicited a surprising response.

"I am training for the Olympics daddy," she replied.

"That’s great training darling," I said. "Which sports do you like?"

"Swimming, sailing and horseys," was the enthusiastic response.

I know what you are thinking, where the hell I am going to keep a horse?

Actually, she is a fairly promising swimmer and I am more than happy to encourage more of that, but the sailing idea is something I could get excited about. She has the genes for it; her mother is a former professional sailor and the only woman in the world to sail with an America’s Cup winning team.

Rebecca is very happy and comfortable on the water; something I believe comes from early involvement with the people she likes best, her family.

I remember the first day she showed real boating promise. After a fun day’s fishing, we returned to the crowded and intimidating boat-ramp. It was chaos — everybody struggling to get protesting boats back on the trailer in a vicious crosscurrent. There was a lot of unnecessary shouting and plenty of frazzled tempers. I jumped ashore to back the trailer down, while Rebecca’s mother drove the boat. In front a large crowd of blokey spectators she executed the perfect drive-on manoeuvre. But that wasn’t the best part. The coup de grace was after pulling the boat clear of the drink, when I helped her swollen 8½-month pregnant frame down the boarding ladder, she didn’t say much but she was beaming on the inside — as was every other woman there.

Rebecca’s passion has developed since regularly prompting us off our behinds and out on the briny. She loves sailing with her grandfather and to date is undefeated in shorthanded regattas — albeit from the basinet on those occasions.

So how do you encourage your kids to get involved with boats, without turning into one of those overbearing parents whose children grow to loathe the threat of another boring trip where "nothing ever happens"?

Of course it’s early days for me but I think the organic process is the one most likely to yield dividends. In Rebecca’s case, we have involved her at a level she enjoys and with a wide range of activities, mostly driven by her requests. Do stuff kids like doing and keep it varied. Catch a sprat, go to the beach, have a swim, row a dinghy. Simple stuff that has a high-level of little-one involvement; if all you do is spend hour-after-hour trolling lures waiting for a bite, it won’t be long before they refuse to go with you.

I feel blessed that my daughter is as comfortable on a boat as she is on a bike and that is all about making sure she feels safe at all times. It also seems important to keep them warm and dry — cold kids are unhappy kids.

So what next for those Olympic ambitions? Well, I’ll talk to my local yacht club for starters. I have started researching good options for youth development and seems to have all the information to get the ball rolling. In the meantime, I need to see if I can fit a dinghy-sailer under the tree.


YOUR SAY: What do you do to get your kids interested in being on the water?


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