It’s Tuesday evening at 5:14 p.m. Most of us are ready to wind down, maybe take a jog around the neighborhood, or grab a bite to eat with friends.
Not Maria Schultz.
For this outdoor pro, Tuesday night is just another opportunity for adventure with Kona and Riley—Maria’s two Australian Shepherds.
She discovered her love for the open-air in high school, while growing up in Buffalo, NY. “On my very first run down the bunny hill on my mom’s old K2 skis; that was the moment outdoor sports clicked for me.” She’s proficient in many activities, including skiing, mountain biking, stand up paddleboarding (SUP), scuba diving, rock climbing, and hiking.
“Skiing is my first love,” says Maria. “Paddleboarding is my second. And, rock climbing gave me ten really, really good years.” It was while rock climbing the Elephant Rock in Fontainebleau, France that Maria’s husband, John, proposed to her.
A Future in Paddleboards
On another romantic trip (to Hawaii this time), Maria was introduced to the stand up paddleboard. “I saw these giant boards for rent outside of our hotel,” explains Maria. “I was really intrigued by them, but I didn’t try them there.”
After a decade of rock climbing, Maria knew she had to find a new hobby. “It was destroying my shoulders and my hands, so the newest sport had to have two requirements: 1) it had to give me a good workout and 2) Riley had to be able to come with me.”
Since paddleboards were long and broad, she was optimistic that she could teach Riley to stand with her. The summer following Hawaii, she decided to give it a try. Little did she know, SUPing would become a huge part of her future.
A Dog to Call Her Own
While Maria didn’t grow up with a dog, she was obsessed with them from a very young age. Their only family dog—Sandy—passed away when Maria was in kindergarten. After that, her mom said no more dogs.
“I begged [my mom] for a dog on a weekly basis,” explains Maria. “Her response was always the same: ‘You can’t get a dog until you have time for a dog.’” Her mom taught her that it’s not fair to own a dog unless you can give them the time and attention they need. That lesson stuck with her and shaped the relationship she now has with her pups.
When Maria and John decided to get a puppy, they had very different ideas about an ideal breed. Maria wanted a wolf-dog. John wanted a poodle. Their compromise: the Australian Shepherd. John got the intelligence in a breed, and Maria got the fluffy, wolf-like features. In fact, while Aussies normally have floppy ears, Riley’s stayed pricked (like a wolf).
SUPing With Her Pup
Maria’s philosophy about dogs: you don’t leave them at home. Riley had been on every climbing trip with Maria. And, SUP provided a way to include him on the adventure.
“The very first day on that board was like the very first day on that ski hill,” says Maria. “There was just something really magical about it.”
With agility courses, a dog is running a different course than their owner. With rock climbing, the dog stays down on the ground while their owner climbs. “SUP is a really unique sport, in that you get to experience the same thing at the same time,” says Maria.
On top of that, it’s a relatively safe sport for both man and dog. “Riley has bad hips, so it lets him swim; it’s a great exercise for him,” explains Maria. “And I get a good workout from the extra weight on the board.”
It wasn’t long before Maria and Riley were getting attention on the water. “People would stop us and say: ‘Are you lifeguard? Are you Coast Guard?’” After introducing the sport to her onlookers, they were always impressed, but also intimidated. The response was often something like: “Well, I could never get my dog to do that.”
Maria disagreed. So, she wrote a book about it.
From Sportswoman to Author
How to SUP With Your PUP provides a quick and simple guide for training your dog to stand up paddle. This summer Maria will release her second edition, with even more great tips and tricks for teaching your dog to paddle with you.
“It’s easy to read in an hour and get started with training your dog,” says Maria.
Paddle Tails, the sequel to her training guide, was coauthored by Lisa Chinn Marvashti. It tells the story of more than a dozen man/dog duos who found healing and balance while paddling on the water. It also features Kona, the newest Aussie addition to Maria’s family.
After her mother lost a battle with cancer in 2014, Maria found her own healing on the water. She tells a tear-jerking story of how Kona provides a reminder of her mother’s love and comfort.
Check out Amazon or MariaChristinaSchultz.com to buy a copy of these books.
On the Road and at Home
Over the last couple years, Maria, Riley, and Kona have had the opportunity to be sponsored by several brands. Hala Gear, Ruffwear, Zuke’s Dog Treats, and Grand Trunk Goods all provide Maria and her paddling buddies with food and gear to make their trips even more epic. (Hint: enter our giveaway and you’ll get a prize package from her sponsors!)
She’s traveled to Iceland, France, and all over the United States. This fall, she and her husband will even be hiking the Inca Trail in Peru.
When Maria isn’t off on overnight paddleboarding adventures, or making appearances at shows with her sponsors, she’s teaching SUP classes right here in the Fredericksburg/Richmond area. She’s also the Assistant Director of Design Services at the University of Mary Washington. We think “multi-talented” is the word you’re looking for.
Check out Maria’s awesome stream of photography on Instagram @sup_with_pup.