Cruising With Carl
Following along with the Canadian Aussie and his adventure partners Shaye and Cody.
You might be surprised to hear that SUP pup Carl of Instagram fame hated paddle boarding at first. “The first year he just didn’t want to get on the board, he didn’t want to get near the water,” explains Carl’s owner Shaye Nelissen. But you’d never know it to look at him now, proudly riding atop his mom or dad’s iROCKER SUP, the gorgeous blue waters and towering mountains of Canada behind him.
A five-year-old Australian Shepherd, Carl lives with his owners in Calgary in the western Canadian province of Alberta. “We’re about 40 minutes from the mountains which is awesome. We have blue lakes pretty close to us, so that’s why every weekend we’re adventuring in the mountains with Carl,” says Shaye, who also works a fulltime job in graphic design and social media.
Originally from Manitoba, Shaye met her boyfriend Cody while living in Victoria, British Columbia, and the two moved together to Calgary. Both outdoor adventure lovers, Shaye got into paddle boarding through her mom. “When my mom got into it, I was like, ‘Oh, this looks fun!’” Taking Carl with her for what would be his first time on a SUP, Shaye was disappointed to find that he was far from a fan. While she really wanted to get into paddle boarding, “Obviously I didn’t want to force him to do something he doesn’t want to do,” she said.
So, for the first year, they started very slowly, getting Carl used to the board by using treats to entice him. Then when Covid hit, and Shaye and Cody found themselves with a bit more free time from their jobs, they decided to really make a go for it. “We decided to get paddle boards of our own and blow them up in the backyard, see how Carl did without the water,” Shaye explains. “So, we got our paddle boards and then he got more comfortable just going on the boards and understanding that it was okay.”
After a year of slow introduction—and lots of treats—Carl headed into his second summer on the water with a new mindset. “The second year, he literally just jumped right onto the board and was like, ‘Let’s go,’” laughs Shaye. “I was like, ‘This is a different dog.’”
Today, Carl doesn’t miss out on a paddle session. And the 100,000+ followers he has on Instagram don’t miss out on a single Carl adventure. “I’ve been sharing [on social media] for a couple years now, and then actually this past summer was when it really started getting big,” says Shaye. The combination of a calm and collected Carl riding shotgun on the paddle board and the jaw-dropping scenery makes for a fun follow on social media. “We just really enjoy sharing our adventures in the mountains with Carl.”
“We have taken a tumble off the board a couple times, but he’s so good with it. In addition to her board leash, Shaye makes sure Carl is always wearing his Ruffwear life jacket. The jacket’s handle makes it easy to pick Carl up out of the water and put him back on the board and provides peace of mind should he take an unexpected fall.
Of all the places they’ve travelled and paddled with Carl, “The Jasper Fairmont lodge was one of our best experiences,” says Shaye. “We took our iROCKER boards and did some evening and morning paddles on Lac Beauvert and the water there is probably the clearest water I have ever seen. You can see all the way to the bottom, all the details, all the rocks. It’s just unreal.”
The trio has also traveled to California several times and plans to visit Montana this summer. “We’re going to go to Flathead Lake and check that out for paddling and then we’re going to go to Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park,” says Shaye.
No matter their destination, Carl impresses with his composure on the board, rarely jumping off unless told it’s okay. “He is so good on the board,” says Shaye. “In Calgary, we have a river that flows right through called the Bow, and last year we actually took him on the river and there’s a bit of rapids […] we have taken a tumble off the board a couple times, but he’s so good with it. In addition to her board leash, Shaye makes sure Carl is always wearing his Ruffwear life jacket. The jacket’s handle makes it easy to pick Carl up out of the water and put him back on the board and provides peace of mind should he take an unexpected fall.
SUP PUP RECS
In addition to recommending a life jacket, Shaye has some other tips for paddlers looking to get their dog into the SUP lifestyle. Rather than heading straight for the water, “I would definitely get them comfortable on the board on land first,” she says. Offer treats while going through commands such as sit and down on the board on land.
“If your dog isn’t comfortable with water, try doing things around the water without the paddle board and then slowly introduce them together,” offers Shaye.
Another thing to consider, especially if your dog is sensitive to sounds, is the inflating and deflating process. The rush of air, especially during deflation, can spook your dog if they’re not prepared for it. “So, get them used to that sound in your backyard,” says Shaye.
As Cody, Shaye, and Carl wait for the waters of Canada’s lakes to thaw for paddling, they dream of summer adventures. In addition to paddling, they take Carl hiking and camping whenever possible. “We usually try and camp by a lake so we can go down and paddle. Paddling is definitely our number one sport to do in the summertime, so that’s why we’re so eager to get on the water already,” says Shaye.
While he may have been hesitant at first, Carl gets his love of paddling honestly. “We wanted a dog that would be as adventurous as us,” says Shaye. Follow along @carl.explores to see just how lucky they got.