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Behind the Board: The Origin Story of SUP Pups

Behind the Board: The Origin Story of SUP Pups

Behind the Board: The Origin Story of SUP Pups

Hi! My name is Samantha and my rescue pup is named Jack. We are the owners and founders of SUP Pups, a small business in San Diego that has been running the program since 2014 but did not establish as an LLC until 2020. We are a women-owned Paddle Board company that specializes in teaching owners how to paddle board with their dog(s) by conducting private lessons, group paddles, community fundraiser events and donating lessons to fosters for dogs that are up for adoption. 


SUP Pups is one-of-a-kind with no other business that does what we do. There are many other paddle board companies out there and I know some do offer availability to bring your dog, but none that provide the total experience with added technique as well as a full on photoshoot on the water! I wanted to make SUP Pups the ultimate, San Diego experience with your dog as well as help give you all the knowledge you need to make paddle boarding with your pup a new hobby and life-long activity. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I was drawn to the magical feeling of being on the water. I had a blessed childhood in Arizona going to the lake almost every weekend in the summer with my family. My dad was an avid slalom skier and bare footer and wanted to share his passion with my brothers, step sisters and I. Honestly, my childhood memories mainly consisted of "lake days" with our dogs and that's where I was the happiest. From the smell of boat engine, the sunshine soaking into your skin. the adrenaline shooting through your veins from being pulled behind the boat and the constant laughter, pure bliss. 

Going into my college years, I always felt a little lost, everyone around me knew exactly what they wanted to do, but not me. But what I did know, 100% that I wanted to move to San Diego and work on the water sharing my passion with others. After achieving my bachelors degree in Tourism development and management at Arizona State University, it lead me to obtaining a job at San Diego Bay Adventures working mainly with Jet ski rentals and tours. I was also able to learn how to somewhat run the daily operations of a tourism business. I felt like I was starting to see a future for myself and my rescue dog Jack in California. 


At San Diego Bay Adventures they also had paddle board rentals and wanted to start offering lessons to the public. . I went on one once at a lake back home and thought it was so unique, it's like being on your own personal boat! I was very intrigued so decided to take a 3 day certification course to acquire my Flat water Instructor Certification with World Paddle Association. As I started to paddle board more at work, I didn't want to leave my dog Jack behind so he would follow me with ease and stand tall at the nose of the board.. and loved it!! My eyes lit up, I just combined two loves of my life, being with my dog and on the water and what an amazing feeling that was. 

That is where the idea of SUP Pups began and then started to bloom in such a fun, rewarding way to make an income as well as help make others smile just how I was.

I knew I wanted to keep up with this idea, so that is where it led me to finding a new location that was easier to teach at as well as learn more on how to run a water sports business at West Coast Paddle Sports (used to be called The SUP Connection) The owners of the company trusted me to take lead as the manager and then supported me in growing SUP Pups under them. 

Each year that passed the word of what I was doing got out more and the demand grew higher! That is when I decided to take the huge leap in making it a legit business January 2020 and solely run it by myself with the guidance of West Coast Paddle Sports without knowing what huge events were about to happen to our world.


Without any marketing or business education, I took a huge leap of faith and I invested in making SUP Pups a LLC, took a loan out to buy a brand new utility van and started on my own website and booking system. Then, COVID hit us all so hard, we were forced to stay inside, business closed and I instantly saw my whole future of SUP Pups crumble not knowing what was going to happen. As time went on and the world started to open up again, I was able to be socially distanced on the water, but the community's fear of being around others was very present so I couldn't run SUP Pups the way I planned. 

During this time, I found out with all my rescue facility partners that a lot of their dogs are being adopted out as more people are working from home. These pups needed an outlet of something to go do to stimulate them and I started to see an influx of these rescue dogs coming to SUP Pups. So in the "end" of COVID, yes it did hinder my business at first and delayed a lot of what I wanted to do, but on the bright side more dogs needed a bonding activity to do with their new owners. 

This grew my excitement of my business even more and I was ready to take it all on until I got a call from my dad in November 2020 with the detrimental news that he has a very rare form of pancreatic cancer. The next several months were a blur with all of his treatments, surgeries and scares. Then right when the busiest part of my season starts, on July 6th, I got the news that he was going into home hospice and expected to live only a few days. I had to cancel and block off all of my lessons to rush home to be with him. The few days then turned into three months of driving every week to be with him and coming back to San Diego on the weekends to work. I honestly don't know how I held it all together without the support and understanding of the amazing community SUP Pups built and the therapeutic escape I felt being on the water with all the puppies. 


With the passing of my dad in September of 2021, I tried to not let that hinder what I wanted for SUP Pups, and used the suppressed feelings as fire to keep moving forward. I always try to look at the bright side of things, even with the heartache of what I went through with my dad. During his home hospice, it forced me to find trust in others and SUP Pups hired our first employee to help take on lessons while I was away in Arizona. You really can't run a successful business by yourself and anything can happen at anytime, and you need to have security in someway. 

Then SUP Pups had one of the best seasons in Summer of 2022. Everyone was so sick of being stuck inside and not traveling that business really did pick up. I have never worked so hard in my life and felt like I was finally on the right road that I originally planned to be on when I started.

Come winter of 2022, San Diego started to get hit with one of the coldest winters with the most rain we have ever had since I have lived here. This terrible weather lasted for almost 6 months, canceling any events that I had and halting future lessons that were going to be booked. SUP Pups and I personally took a huge financial hit and the motivation of the business with our season really only being 2 months long for that year. 

Not only am I trying to run a business in California, I also have to take in account the seasons and potential weather that can come my way. With any business there are going to be obstacles and challenges but you have to take each one as a learning lesson and use that again as fire on how you are going to handle them in the future. 

What really keeps me going is that paddle boarding is not only just a sport, I look at it as also therapy. I can be viewed as physical therapy as well as mental therapy. Coming from someone who has a lot of injuries that hinders me from doing other activities, paddle boarding offers me a way to still be active and get a good workout without being hard on my joints. Paddle boarding also provides you with a way to escape from all the technology and distractions that surround us and to obtain "blue water therapy" in the best way with your dog! 

So with SUP Pups, we are not only teaching you how to paddle board with your dog, but also a new way to improve your life in so many ways.