I’ve only been stand up paddle-boarding a couple of times but I’ve very quickly fallen in love with it.
I loved the feeling of being out on the water with the horizon stretched out in front of me and the sound of the waves for company. I love the fact that you can choose to have a gentle paddle on calm waters, or hype things up a bit and try to catch some waves.
But imagine if it wasn’t just the waves I had for company. Imagine if I had another body on my board – in the shape of a furry, four-legged friend…
I first discovered dogs SUPing on Instagram, where I watched videos of Chris de Aboitiz surfing. He had multiple dogs with him, jumping over his shoulder to stand at the nose of the paddle board, tongues out and tails up, clearly enjoying the ride.
Chris de Aboitiz is a world champion tandem surfer and ‘dog whisperer’ based in Australia. Born in Sydney, but raised in Hawaii, he found himself working at the famous Waikiki beach, aged 15, teaching tourists how to surf, sail and wind sail.
He returned to Australia, set up a long board shop in 1994, and continued to teach watersports. He is known for rekindling tandem surfing in Australia, winning the World Tandem Surfing title in 1999. He then focused on bringing kite-surfing and paddle boarding to people’s attention, opening up a kitesurfing shop and offering lessons. Keahi de Aboitiz, his son and one of his pupils, is now four times Kite-surfing World Champion.
As if that wasn’t enough, Chris also started a career in dog training because alongside his passion for the ocean, Chris has harboured a lifelong love of dogs.
So in 2016, Chris founded SupDogOz, a holistic lifestyle brand, which allowed him to combine his passions into one venture.
Put simply, Chris started training dogs to surf with him.
I know. Dogs on SUP? HOW?!
Chris can introduce dogs to paddle boarding in such a way that, when they come to riding waves together, the canines appear to be totally at ease – confident enough to jump onto his shoulders and switch positions on the board.
The fact they don’t try to jump off, and the fact they don’t repeatedly fall off, just pays testament to his training.
But he believes anyone can do it.
Intrigued? Here’s a snippet from the Q&A on Chris’s website:
How does surfing and SUPing with your dogs strengthen the bond? Could anyone do it?
When I teach the dogs to surf on a SUP, first I take them for a paddle in the flat water. I get the dogs used to the board, tell them when they can jump on or off, give them clear instructions to sit, stay, or jump and reward them each time they follow the command. We work together as a team, build a relationship, establish trust, a bond, a friendship.
After SUPing on the flat water I take the dogs to a fun place like a sand bar or the side of a river bank where we can all have a play; this way the dogs know that SUP = FUN.
The next time I get my SUP out the dogs can’t wait for more fun and new adventures…. after some time, practice and with my love for the ocean and dogs, I began surfing with my dog pack.
With some dedication, water awareness and dog leadership you can get started on the flat water first then work towards SUPing in the surf.
How in the world did you teach them to surf?
Well… first of all I make sure my dogs can do the basics, sit and stay. Dogs love to follow instructions understand their boundaries, know there is someone in charge who they can trust and be rewarded with a loving pat…. dogs really love to please you and most of all to have fun with you, whether it is a game of fetch in your back yard or paddling or surfing on a “stand up paddle board”.
Sounds simple right? Well it had me convinced.
I’m determined now to not only become good enough to try SUP yoga, but also to get to the stage where I can train a dog to come out on the water with me. Because how AMAZING would that be?!