After quickly falling in love with stand up paddling (also known as SUPing), husband and wife team Bryan and Camille started Black Dog Paddle with a goal of becoming the best SUP instructors in the region. Black Dog Paddle specializes in SUP instruction, education, and introducing the sport to a growing audience. In our lookbook, From the Water to Work, we borrowed a stand up paddleboard from our friends at Black Dog Paddle and headed to the James River. After the shoot, we caught up with Bryan and Camille to find out more about the emerging sport.
How did you get into SUPing?
Black Dog Paddle began on an outrageously windy day in the Outer Banks. A friend gave my wife and I two boards (wrong size), two paddles (wrong size) and said, “Have fun!” Although we got blown off the boards every few minutes, we had a blast and became completely hooked. Once we paddled through the breakers and finally out into the ocean, we saw dolphins as we paddled parallel to the beach (wobbly, very wobbly). When we got home, we researched boards, paddles, leashes and lifejackets, and had them shipped to the house. During that trip, we also realized how much there is to learn. It isn’t as easy as hopping on a board and paddling off into the sunset. We wanted to become the best SUP instructors and Black Dog Paddle (named after Emmy, our 86 lb. black lab) was born.
What services does Black Dog Paddle provide?
We teach intro and intermediate classes, race clinics, paddle stroke clinics, SUP Yoga, SUP PUP classes, Kids SUP Camp – which has been so much fun, group “Pack Paddles”, and eco-tours – where we explore areas on or around the James on SUP. We provide safety for local triathlons and open water swim events. I [Bryan] am now an American Canoe Association SUP Instructor Trainer – one of only a few in the Nation – so I’ve traveled to teach instructor level certification classes. Next year, Black Dog Paddle will be hosting multiple certification classes.
What do you think attracts people to SUPing?
I think people love SUPing because it’s so accessible. We teach the widest demographic in our classes – all ages, men and women. It’s a new perspective on the water too – where you used to be in a kayak or canoe, sitting at water level and enclosed in a boat – now you’re standing up, you can see everything that’s in the water and all around you. It’s an amazing new connection with the water and nature. It’s also an incredibly versatile sport. You can SUP on flat water, white water, in the surf, you can race and also use the board as a yoga mat. It becomes a lifestyle; it’s not just a sport.
When you aren’t enjoying the water, what are you up to?
When we aren’t on the water I [Bryan] am a pilot, Camille works in online marketing, and we hang out with our black lab Emmy. We often go on road trips to find new places to paddle and we take an annual snowboarding trip at Christmas.
Outside Magazine named Richmond the “Best River Town” in America, did this come as a surprise and what factors in the city make this credible?
Definitely didn’t surprise us! Richmond has white water that runs through downtown, which is a rarity throughout the country. The city and the people who live here really appreciate the James, whether they’re out on the water, running the James River trail system, biking Buttermilk or North Bank Trail, hiking Belle Isle, competing in one of the triathlons, dragon boat races, we could go on and on. Clearly this is a River Town and we earned the title! We took the writer of that Outside Magazine article paddle boarding – for the first time – while he was in town. John had a blast and so did we; we’re still in touch with him. Let’s add that there are great keepers of the James here in Richmond too, like James River Association, VCU’s Rice Center and several others – Richmond loves the James!
The season is coming to an end, what are your plans for enjoying the final days of summer?
Keep on Paddling! Labor Day doesn’t signal the end of anything for us – we keep paddling and teaching in cooler waters as long as it’s safe. We’ll personally SUP in winter – as long as we have the proper cold weather water clothing and safety gear – paddle on!