Stand-up paddling or SUPing, as it’s commonly called, is an ancient form of surfing that originated in Hawaii. Surfers found that standing on boards allowed for more expansive views of the waves and scenery and provided a comfortable long-distance ride.
A growing sport, the Outdoor Foundation’s 2013 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report estimates that more than 1.5 million Americans participated in paddleboarding in 2012, an almost 25 percent increase from the previous year.
With the growth of SUPing in the past decade or so, it’s no surprise that paddleboarders have figured out how to take their beloved canine companions along for the ride. Paddleboards range from 10 to 12 feet in length making them better for balance and also leaving plenty of space for both you and your four-legged friend to share the board.
Nearly any dog of any size or age can board. And you can SUP in nearly any kind of water, from ocean surf to calm ponds, depending on your experience and preference. You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to participate, either, just in reasonably good shape.
Want to give it a try and get your dog “on board?”
Maria Christina Schultz, an American Canoe Association-certified stand-up paddleboard instructor and author of How to SUP With Your PUP (2013) provides first-hand advice:
- Before he steps on the board, make sure your dog already knows basic commands, including Sit, Stay, and Down, and is comfortable swimming in deeper water.
- Make all experiences on the board, especially the first one, extremely positive. Give your dog with a jackpot of praise and treats at first for any contact with the board and when teaching him how to ride it, then gradually wean him off the treats once he learns how to ride.. Train in short, fun sessions, one step at a time. “It took me a week working with the board with Riley in our living room,” Schultz says of her Australian Shepherd. “We sat on the board, jumped on the board, jumped off the board — everything I could think of to make sure he thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
- Lay the board out on land first, and encourage your dog up onto the board. Encourage him to sit in the middle of the board, or wherever you prefer, for gradually longer periods. Introduce a little motion by placing a small cushion or pillow under the middle of the board. “I stress that the board is a place to sit and stay, and chill, not romp,” Schultz says. “If I’m going for a long paddle, I want the weight on the board centered, so it moves through the water efficiently. It’s more difficult to paddle with extra weight on the nose or tail. I ask the dogs to sit close to me, right under my feet.”
- Ensure that your dog is comfortable with each step before going on to the next one. “Every dog learns at a different pace,” Schultz says. “Don’t get discouraged if it takes longer for your dog to feel confident on the board.”
Pomeranian Ziggy, enjoys paddleboarding with owner Susan Heberer at the Helen Woodward Animal Center SUP classes in San Diego
5 Tips for Safe SUPing
- Outfit your dog with an appropriately sized safety flotation device with a handle.
- Confirm that you can lift your dog back onto your paddleboard using the flotation device’s handle, in case he falls into the water — especially deeper water.
- If your dog has trouble staying on top of the paddleboard or the board has a slippery spot, place a nonslip plastic bath mat with suction cups on the board.
- Apply dog-safe sunblock to your pooch.
- Watch for potential hazards: heavy waves, speeding vessels, wildlife, jellyfish, foul weather, and doggie distractions, including waterfowl, other dogs, deer, and small animals such as squirrels.
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