Surfing with Dozer: How to Paddle Board with Your Dog

Marc and Dozer the bulldog paddle boarding into some waves

Dozer the Surfing Dog

Dozer first caught the surf bug when his owner Gigi took him to a dog surfing event in San Diego.  While walking along the beach a board washed up and immediately Dozer jumped on and wouldn’t get off. Doug was excited to introduce Dozer to surfing so the next day he and Gigi got a soft board, bought a life vest and the rest is history and his surf skills and lack of fear in the waves is the stuff of dog surf legend. Throughout the years Dozer has won various dog surfing events, been in numerous TV commercials and has even published his own book. Marc and Dozer the bulldog paddling in towards the beach

Dozers Parents

The parents of Dozer are Doug and Gigi Hokstad. They brought him home in 2006 and they believe that he is a reincarnation of Greg Noll because of his low power stance style and determination to make the drop. Dozer’s surfing ability has done more for his owner Doug than his own. Doug was forced out of the lineup due to his two cervical spine surgeries and was taken away from the sport of surfing.  That was until Dozer’s surfing ability became known, now Doug is back in the line-up sharing the waves with his furry friend. He says, “The magic of surfing visits me every time Dozer and I make our way out to the line-up.” Dozer the surfing bulldog and his proud parents

Paddle Surfing With Dozer

The Basics of Standup Paddle Boarding With Your Dog:

There are a lot of websites which give a more in depth detail on how to prepare and train your animal to accompany you while standup paddle boarding. The famous Surf Dog Ricochet does a great job and has video tutorials to walk you through the process. Also our friends at SoCal Surf Dogs put together a comprehensive summary with 17 chapters on SUPing with your dog. Before bringing your dog on board, it’s important you as a human already have the basics of Standup Paddle boarding down and can swim and operate your board well in the surf and flat water. If your dog likes the water, this will be a whole lot easier. If not, stop and take the time to introduce them to the water slowly, at their pace. When they are excited about playing and swimming in the water then and only then are they ready to learn to SUP.

Lifejackets are a must

Dozer paddle boarding with his canine life jacket for safety Always have your SUP dog wear a canine life Jacket. Things happen. Let’s always make it a fun and SAFE experience. While out in the water if you dog falls or jumps off, it’s much easier to get them back on the board using the handle that’s attached to the Life Jacket and the vest lets them keep their heads above water in the impact zone without effort.

Make sure you have the right SUP

Marc and Dozer on a stand up paddle board headed out towards the surf Depending on your size, a board that’s longer than 10 feet, wider than 30 inches, and thicker than 4 inches is typically best. You want a lot of buoyancy to create stability, as well as a non-slip deck that runs the full length of the board. We used our Isle Versa SUPs which all have a soft deck pad making it great for dogs to grip into the board. For beginners or if more than one family member wants get in on the dog SUP fun, we make the only 15 ft. multi-passenger board – the Megladon. It’s a supersize inflatable paddle board which supports 5-7 people at the same time!

First impression means the most

Dozer the surfing bulldog checking the surf with his canine life jacket on Introduce your dog to the SUP board on land first. Encourage them to get on and off the SUP board by themselves. Take your time. Don’t rush it. You can sit, kneel or stand on the board behind them and simulate paddling, switching from side to side so your SUP dog will know what to expect.

Where to take them first

Doug and Dozer on a stand up paddle board Introduce your SUP dog to the SUP board in calm water. A lake or bay works best. Place the SUP board in ankle deep water and encourage your dog to get up on the board on their own. Start by moving the board around a bit. When your dog looks comfortable with the experience, get on the board with them (OK to start on your knees or sitting) and paddle away from the shore. Remember….lots of positive encouragement. When you’re comfortable, go ahead and stand up.

Positioning is key

Marc and Dozer the surfing bulldog paddle boarding into the heavy surf Encourage your SUP dog to stand or sit in the middle or back of the SUP board. It is more important for owners of large dogs to keep them in this position so you have better control of the paddle board. Small dogs can stand on the front or roam all over the board but it’s best to keep them right in front of you or behind you so you don’t hit them with the paddle when you switch sides. Remember, a lot of positive encouragement goes a long way. (On a side note, if you ever want to surf your dog, it’s critical that they learn to stay in the back 1/3 of the board or they will never make the transition to surfing)

ALWAYS wear a leash

If you will be surfing with your dog it is very important to have a leash attached to you and the board. If and when a fall occurs the board goes in and the surfer has to let go of the paddle to retrieve the dog. Keeping the board close due to a leash, provides a much needed platform immediately for the dog to get back on. A dog like Dozer expends a lot of energy while inefficiently swimming in their vest. A tired dog brings a session to end sooner than both surfer and dog would like.  Having the board close by would be vitally important if the dog was injured.

Dozer goes Hollywood

Dozer loves the camera almost as much as the surf. Don’t believe us? Check out his two TV commercials.


Once your dog is hooked he or she may enjoy surfing and paddling more than you so be prepared accept this fact!   Marc and Dozer posing with a paddle board on the beach after a long day


Surfing with Dozer: How to Paddle Board with Your Dog

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Marc Miller - Co-Founder of Isle Surf & SUP. I started Isle back in 2004 to share my love of paddling and surfing in the ocean with others one board at a time. I love to surf, paddle , travel and write about it. When im not in the office I can be found on foreign shores searching for waves and fun.