When we recently heard about dog and human paddle boarding on the Thames hosted by City Paws Club (the UK’s first dedicated outward bound centre for dogs), we were simultaneously super excited and extremely nervous at the thought of giving it a go! Let’s just say we’re not the most likely participants that come to mind seeing as neither human nor hound are that athletic. Not letting a minor detail like that (nor that fact that we’re not the best swimmers) get in our way, we signed up.
In terms of things to do with your dog, dog and human paddle boarding has to be at the top of the ‘different’ category and definitely ticks the box for a unique experience. Honestly we had no idea what to expect but imagining things going well, saw us serenely and effortlessly gliding down the Thames!
After making sure we had some of the logistics covered – both dog and human life jackets are provided (phew), we were very much looking forward to giving it a go. On the big day, we met eleven other humans and their hounds at Active 360 under the Kew Bridge Arches for a kitting out and briefing. I was pleased to hear that several of the experienced Active 360 instructors would be joining us and well as pack leader Matt from City Paws Club. At least there would be someone not too far off to help fish us out if we fell in!
Given that dog and human paddle boarding was a new experience for the dogs, it was important to get them used to the boards on dry land first. With the help of some treats helpfully provided by Matt, we enticed the dogs onto the boards and encouraged them to sit and lie down to get comfortable. Somehow I managed to end up with two dogs on mine…Belinha and little Alfie. Fine on dry land just not on the river Alfie!
Then we were off…after a few rocky steering moments we managed to get going in the same direction as everyone else which was a good start! It’s best to start in a kneeling position which is much easier than standing up. It’s also good for dogs who are a little unsure (as was Belinha) as they can stay close to you for reassurance.
Some of the other dogs like Frank the wire-haired Vizsla needed no reassurance whatsoever and seemed to think this was dog and human swimming instead!
Once you get some confidence you can progress to standing up (it is called stand-up paddle boarding after all). Sam the instructor helpfully held Belinha on his board whilst I gave this a go and oh my….does this give you a leg workout or what! Weirdly, your legs start to shake uncontrollably (apparently happens to most people first time) which doesn’t bode well for not capsizing. Surprisingly however, I didn’t capsize (don’t worry that moment comes later).
We glided (yes, there were moments when my vision of serenely gliding down the Thames became a reality) from Kew Bridge to Chiswick Bridge and were even able to catch some of the moments on video (as seen from Belinha’s point of view)…