SUP for pups

At Gorge Paddle Challenge, one competitor will be two

fundraising for Hood River Adopt-A-Dog and Golden Bond Rescue, Matt Willett and Hunter will compete together in the Aug. 23-24 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.

fundraising for Hood River Adopt-A-Dog and Golden Bond Rescue, Matt Willett and Hunter will compete together in the Aug. 23-24 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.

Matt and Hunter make a great pair.

As an avid stand up paddler, Hood River resident Matt Willett is one of those guys you see with a board strapped to the roof of his car just about everywhere he goes, in case he has a few spare moments during the day to get in a quick paddle, and as a water-loving golden retriever, Hunter is game to get wet any chance he gets.

Hunter’s balance is exceptional for a relatively large dog. He sits, or lays, calmly on the front of the board as Willett paddles around the river, pushing a little extra weight, but otherwise fairly uninhibited by Hunter’s company.

Wilett said he first put Hunter on a board while surfing at the Oregon coast.

“I didn’t know how it would work, but he got the hang of it almost immediately,” He said. “Before long we were surfing little waves together.”

In Hood River, Willett paddles the Columbia regularly with Hunter – a concept commonly seen on the river, when temperatures climb and the wind dies. With that in mind, Willett had the idea of organizing a fun fundraiser event, for dogs, that entailed people paddling with their pets. Similar events have popped-up around the country in the last couple years, commonly called “Sup for Pups.”

After going through the early stages of organizing an event, Willett said by this spring he realized he wouldn’t be ready in time for this summer. Rather than abandoning the idea entirely, he decided to focus his energy on an individual effort this year, and hopefully generate more interest for next year.

“I’m going to enter the men’s open class of the Paddle Challenge (Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, coming Aug. 23-24), and compete with Hunter,” he explained. If conditions cooperate, the first day of the event will be a downwind race from Viento to Hood River and the second day will be course racing in front of the Hood River Waterfront Park. “I’ve done some practice downwind runs and Hunter does great. I’m certainly not trying to win, just finish, and generate some interest and excitement for next year.”

This year Willett is fundraising on his own, through an online crowdsourcing campaign (, with the goal of raising $1,000 to be split between Hood River Adopt-A-Dog and Golden Bond Rescue – both organizations that help place orphaned dogs with good homes. As of Friday morning, he had about one third of that goal already raised. Both organizations will be represented at the Paddle Challenge event headquarters (waterfront park) and will have animals up for adoption at the event.

Depending on the interest and feedback he receives, Willett says he will move forward accordingly.

“I’m hoping this will develop into its own event next year,” he said. “Hood River is an active community that loves dogs; it seems like the perfect combination for an event that brings the two together as a fundraiser. Hood River has been a great community and has given me a lot; this is just my small way of giving back.”

For more info: and search Paws for a Cause or, to donate, see

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