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Dog-friendly Paddle Boarding Adventures: Wakeup Docklands

By April 5, 2019 No Comments
Sausage dog on a paddle board in East London Docklands

In East London, at Royal Victoria Docks, there is a place which holds stand up paddleboarding (SUP), wakeboarding and SUP yoga sessions. It is called Wakeup Docklands and great news is that there you can experience dog-friendly paddle boarding. When we saw this “park” during our explorations of the area (in occasion of a dog-friendly trip on the Emirates cable car and evening ou, as we told in our previous post), we were left wondering whether Wakeup Docklands hosted any dog-friendly SUP sessions. Thanks to George the Miniature Dachshund (on Instagram @southshieldssausage), who tried out the experience before they closed for Winter, we learned that you can indeed enjoy paddle boarding with your dog (at some conditions).

As Wakeup Docklands celebrated its reopening on 2nd April after their Winter break, what best time to have George and his humans telling all about their experience and Jon, the founder of Wakeup Docklands, explaining more about their dog policy and all the tips you need for having the most enjoyable adventure.

Dog-friendly paddle boarding at Wakeup Docklands in East London

Miniature dachshund on SUP with owner in blue wetsuit in East London

George the SouthShieldsSausage goes dog-paddle boarding

One-year old George, the chocolate dapple miniature dachshund, came to London with his humans Abbie and James from the North of England to enjoy a short vacation, back in Autumn. He is a happy chap, who “loves the beach, in particular digging, and chasing birds! He wasn’t always so sure of the water but since getting him his little lifejacket and taking him out paddling on the coast near our home he’s turned into a bit of a little water baby!”, as Abbie says.

They decided to have an alternative experience and bring George to paddle board. “I had previous experience, James hadn’t but was a keen surfer with excellent balance and George was a confident swimmer” says Abbie. She had already got George a lifejacket as they live very close to the coast, and both were keen to get him out on the water with SUP or surf with them when the weather was nice. “Previously he’d been known to jump into ponds and always confidently swam his way out but with us planning trips to the ocean I just wanted to be sure those little legs kept him above big waves! He hadn’t been on SUP before then, that was his first time,” she adds.

The day they picked for their SUP experience, a Saturday afternoon around 3pm, was a glorious sunny day. “The weather was gorgeous we were really lucky,” recounts Abbie. “We were kindly gifted this experience from Jon and he came with us out onto the water. We’d previously got in touch to check they were dog friendly and if they had availability on the day and he couldn’t have been more helpful, informative and flexible. Their site is just a short walk down the Docklands from the Aloft ExCel where we were staying (really awesome modern dog friendly hotel!). When we arrived we were greeted by Jon and the team (who loved George – all the fuss!) they have a great set up with a little changing facility where equipment was kept and boxes to leave our stuff and even a bar/beach set up right next to their site. They provided us with wet suits, boards and even lent me a waterproof pack to keep my cam/phone in whilst we paddled.”

Sausage dog with shark lifejacket on paddle board

Jon made sure they were comfortable and competent and the adventure began. Abbie remembers how Jon told them about the area and guided them in the experience giving tips throughout. “We both set off, George was on my board, but he barked for James so we pulled up alongside one another and he jumped ship! Then he would bark for me so we kept swapping with him up the Thames. It was a lovely still day and apart from the odd wakeboarder causing a ripple was a really easy level to start at. He then spent some time chilling on Jon’s board before jumping off and paddling over to us again! He definitely built up his courage as the afternoon went on,” recounts Abbie.

“We just loved seeing London from a different perspective and giving George a ‘first experience’. Being from the North, London always seems so fast paced and sometimes not where you’d imagine taking a dog for a day out, but the Docklands was an amazing, a different alternative to the typical London experiences we’d had before,” adds Abbie.

James and her agreed that that has been their  favourite thing they did in London. “I would whole heartedly recommend it! The team were so dog-friendly, taking the time to fuss George and making sure he was always at ease. If you are unsure of your dog’s swimming ability I’d recommend popping online and getting a lifejacket (I think ours was £15 from Amazon) as they don’t have them there, but the water is mostly still with no tides so a great place for learners! Jon was telling us of a local guy whose dog jumps in the Thames and swims over to them and hangs out for the day when the guy is at work! We didn’t have the pleasure of meeting said pup but he sounds like one cool dog!”

We asked Abbie if they were worried of falling in the water and there were any unintentional swims. “No one fell in (well except George’s bold jump!) but, with the wetsuit on, the only thing I would have been conscious about would of been how wet and curly my hair would have gotten!”

Paddle boarding with dogs at Wakeup Docklands: how it works

Man and dog paddle board at sunset in London

There are a few important things to know about dog paddle boarding at Wakeup Docklands and their policy. We spoke with Jon, the founder. “We have a number of regular customers who hang out at our park with their dogs and like to get out on the water,” said Jon. “Also despite being very dog friendly, we have to exercise a certain amount of caution having too many dogs on site at any one time, as we don’t want to cause any undue stress on any of our customers who may be averse, or in some instances, scared of dogs (especially children).”  For this reason they don’t advertise dog paddleboarding as an activity on their website.

We learnt from him that there are a host of regulations around Royal Victoria Dock. In order not to breach any rules and to ensure that everything runs smoothly they put some basic rules in place for dogs at the site and others come from existing regulations (more about them below). Also, they keep dog-friendly sessions separate from the normal schedule. “Dog-paddleboaring takes place outside of our standard class schedule”, explained Jon. “As a BSUPA accredited paddleboard school, our usual format is to provide paddleboard introductory lessons in a group format for up to 8 people at a time. We also run what is known as the BSUPA Ready to Ride certification, which is a 2-hour class focusing on developing paddleskills, awareness, rescue and recovery. etc. These classes are not suitable (for obvious reasons) for people with dogs, so I don’t want to give off the wrong impression and have people think they can book via our website and expect to take their dog out for a paddle during one of these classes.”

Man with dog paddle board at Royal Docks on a sunny day

Instead, any dog paddleboards must be arranged in advance using the enquiry form at the bottom of Wakeup Docklands’ website, with a cost of £30/person per hour (dogs go free!), explained Jon. Normally these sessions will be supervised by an instructor. “For insurance reasons, to hire out one of our paddleboards form us without an instructor, you’ll need to have had some prior experience of paddleboarding and also be able to provide some form of proficiency certification (like the BSUPA R2R card mentioned above, or equivalent),” said Jon. “I’m open to enquiries from dog owners who may wish to do something similar, however, unless then can provide a certification of proficiency, we wouldn’t be able to let them out unsupervised with their dogs, which means one of our instructors would have to be on hand to chaperone them outside of our regular paddleboard class schedule.”

Chatting with him, he said that if someone has never tried paddle boarding before, it would be best to first book a regular class without their dog (the 1 hour “intro to paddleboarding” or the 2-hour “BSUPA Ready2Ride” class) to gain confidence, as it could otherwise turn into an unpleasant experience for both of them and the dog, and arrage a dog-paddleboarding experience for a later date. In any case, as every situation is different, best to get in touch with Jon and discuss individual circumstances with him. As an experienced certified instructor, he will be able to suggest the best suited solution.

All you need to know about SUP with your dog at Wakeup Docklands

Large dog waits on dock lookig at the body of water near Wakeup Docklands

Dog rules: If you would like to book a special dog-friendly SUP session, there are a few rules to know, as told by Jon:

  1. Fouling in the dock is strictly forbidden and owners are responsible for their their pets at all times.
  2. Dogs must stay on paddleboards. “Obviously we all fall in from time to time, but swimming in the docks is not permitted,” said Jon.
  3. Wakeup Docklands does not have any buoyancy aids for dogs, so you will have to bring with your own.
  4. Wakeup Docklands recommends that you bring your own dog bowl, especially on hot days. They are happy to provide fresh drinking water for your pets rather them drink the dock water.
  5. All paddlers must have prior experience and be able to provide certification of proficiency such as a BSUPA Ready2Ride card, or equivalent for hires.
  6. Wakeup Docklands reserves the right to ask people to take their dog home if required, so please respect other customers (especially children) who may be nervous around animals, clean up after your pets and do not allow your dogs to roam unattended off the leash.
  7. Also note that beach rules (apart from no swimming) include that no dogs are allowed on the sand.

We also asked whether the experience is suitable for any size of dog, to which Jon replied “Within reason. Small dogs are best.” We can imagine that a Great Dane may make it a bit complicated to keep the balance.

Dog looks at Royal Docks body of water

Water quality: To address concerns about water quality, Wakeup Docklands have a FAQ on their page, which provides “The Royal Victoria Dock is an inlet of the Thames River which has been specifically filtered by a sand bar at London City Airport. The water is some of the cleanest around and the entire Dock is dedicated to leisure, sport and recreation activities with regular safety tests being carried out by the regulatory bodies in the area. We have a thriving community of wildlife that as gradually been reintroduced to the docklands area and are proud to maintain the area in order for people to enjoy the docks and the watersports we provide.” In any case, better not to drink the water or have your dog drinking it (more FAQs here).

Sessions and costs: To book your special dog-friendly session you need to send them an enquiry using the form provided at the bottom of their webpage. As mentioned above, dogs are only allowed on session outside regular classes, which cost £30 per person per hour. They also have wetsuits for hire at £5, which sounds a good idea, especially if it is not too warm.

Opening times: Tuesday-Friday 4pm-8pm, Saturday 10am-7pm and Sunday 10am-6pm, and the season runs from April to October.

How to get there: Wakeup Docklands can be easily reached with the DLR, getting off at Royal Docks or West Silvertown, depending on which DLR line you get.

Making it a dog day out: Exploring dog-friendly Docklands

Jetty Greenwich Peninsula dog

Around the Docklands there are many dog-friendly things to do which you can add to your dog-friendly paddle board experience to make it a dog day out in East London. Regarding eateries, cafes and hangouts welcoming dogs, apart from Wakeup Docklands own beach bar, paces away there is the Oiler Bar (which allows dogs and about which we talked about in this post). During their London holiday, Abbie, James and George the sausage stayed at dog-friendly hotel Aloft London, a 10/15minute stroll down the Docklands and found there were loads to see and do: “there were plenty of little cafes and bars that you could sit outside of, we actually stopped on the way back for tea at Heroica Lounge, an open top, red, double decker bus that has been converted into a pizza restaurant! They’re dog friendly on the top deck and the pizza and beers were awesome! We didn’t get a chance to check out the cable cars but that would definitely be our go to next time!” We will add more other dog-friendly cafes and eateries in the area later.

The closest dog-friendly attractions are the Emirates cable car, which you can take to get on the other side of the river and stroll to the Jetty Peninsula for a brunch or dinner at dog-friendly Vagabond, but may be not a great one if your dog is not confident on moving surfaces or with heights. Alternatively, you can head to Trinity Buoy Wharf, which offers a range of activities, including visiting some installations, an old lighthouse, a sculpture park, and has a lovely American diner, where you can sit outside with your dog breaking many possible diet rules. A bit further East, you can reach the Thames Barriers Park, for a nice walk and lovely views of this landmark.

If, instead of the area, you are most interested in are other water adventures across London, we previously wrote about  hiring a dog-friendly rowing boat in Hollow Ponds, Epping Forest, or in Richmond on the Thames, and going for an electric boat hire on the Regent’s Canal, which may give you some ideas.

All photos of the paddle boarding experience in this post are courtesy (and copyright) of Abbie – George @southshieldssausage (follow his adventures on Instagram at @southshieldssausage)

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