Paddleboard rental company encourages puppy paddlers

Bella may be pint sized, but she is fearless on the water.

The five-pound Chihuahua wags her tail in anticipation as her human parent Matt Stone gears her up with a doggy life vest for her daily paddleboard trip to Crab Island.

Stone owns the paddleboard rental company SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) Express out of Destin, and said that he and his wife Natasha encourage customers to bring their pups along for the fun water experience.

“She just loves it,” Stone said motioning to Bella. “Whenever we get out her life vest she gets so excited. We try to encourage other people to do the same thing and see if their dogs are SUP dogs.”

Stone said he was first introduced to stand up paddleboarding in Hawaii and when he adopted Bella he took her along for the ride.

“Well, we adopted her years ago in Hawaii and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Stone said of paddleboarding with Bella. “My wife actually instructs yoga on stand up paddleboards and we’ve just fallen into the lifestyle.”

SUP Express has been operating in Destin for five years now and offers paddleboard and kayak rentals and deliveries in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and parts of South Walton. Besides rentals, the company also offers guided tours on paddleboards at different times of day such, as sunrise, sunset and night glow-paddle tours. And of course, Stone said, every rental or guided tour is dog-friendly.

“We try to take our pups out on paddleboards as often as we can,” Stone said. “Bella is famous on Crab Island. Every time I take her out paddling we always have people wanting photos with her and pointing and saying, ‘Do you see that cute dog on the board?’ She’s better at it than I am!”

When it comes to skill level or size of both dog and human, Stone said he works hard to accommodate everyone.

"We have a variety of different boards that you can choose from," he said. "From flat bottom boards to boards with a sharp nose so you can cut through the water and maybe even try to do some surfing on as well. I think that if you find the right board for you, you are really going to enjoy yourself."