“Every year I’ve gotten busier and busier,” said Eastburn, who has hosted private lessons for human-dog duos, as well as for dog birthdays and has even partnered with non-profits like the San Diego Rhodesian Ridgeback Club and San Diego Pittie Parents for special paddleboarding events. “Now I want to see how much my business can grow.”
Originally from Arizona, Eastburn moved to San Diego in 2013, already having visited Campland on the Bay every year for family vacations since she was 5 years old. Eastburn started working at San Diego Bay Adventures as a jet ski tour guide. After getting her certification to become a paddleboarding instructor, Eastburn started SUP Pups, offering lessons to those who want to learn to paddleboard with their dogs. The business was inspired by Eastburn’s own lab-mix rescue, Jack.
“I took him out with me right after I got certified and he absolutely loved it,” said Eastburn. “He’s such a little fisherman, and he uses the board as his little boat. It’s hilarious. He’ll just stare into the water as we paddle, looking for fish.”
Sup Pups started as a “casual meet-up” between Eastburn and her clients, but as interest grew, Eastburn reached out to The SUP Connection, who hired Eastburn to manage the rentals while also being the new home for SUP Pups. For the last five years, Eastburn has introduced the sport of paddleboarding to blind, deaf and three-legged dogs.
“I also took out a deaf cat once,” said Eastburn.
But now, the young entrepreneur has decided it’s time to grow outside of The SUP Connection nest.
“I actually want to franchise SUP Pups,” said Eastburn. “Say you’re a paddle-boarder in Texas and you want to do SUP Pups. I want to have a whole online program that will certify you to become a paddleboard instructor for SUP Pups.”
“The guys at The SUP Connection have been like father figures to me, but I wanted to go back to my roots and why I did this in the first place,” she added. “It wasn’t about rentals or working in a warehouse. It was about SUP Pups.”
Now its own LLC, SUP Pups will be adding not only online certification to their business, but also more fundraising events such as promoting foster dogs who are up for adoption. Eastburn also wants to start an SUP Pups Dog Day Adventure camp, based in San Diego.
“Sam has a true gift of connecting with people and dogs of all walks of life,” said local Alycia Cardona, who took a SUP Pup lesson with her bulldog mix Bluebelle. “Sam has a lot to offer and I am truly excited for all of her upcoming endeavors. Her love for water is contagious and she has a natural talent for making anyone feel comfortable. Bluebelle and I have turned into lifetime SUPers.”
Having worked with all sorts of disabled pets, as well as dogs with severe water anxiety, Eastburn also has the dream to write her own children’s book, the story narrated through the perspective of her dog, Jack.
“I want to write a book that shows kids they can get out there and do anything despite their disabilities or being scared,” said Eastburn, who has helped both dogs and their owners get over the fear of trying something new.
“I look back and laugh at the first message I sent her because I gave her every excuse in the world,” said Cardona. "I’m overweight, bad bones, have no experience, I will sink the board, I don’t know if my dog can swim… You name it, I said it. Sam never once hesitated to schedule with me. She has a special way of taking away your insecurities.”
With her new Chevy van and freshly bought paddleboard, Eastburn will continue to offer lessons at Liberty Station, and hopefully soon Fiesta Island. Individual SUP Pup lessons are offered Monday through Sunday and cost $65-$115. To schedule, visit the SUP Pup’s Instagram: @sup_pups.