Dog surfing is a radical, fun, dog sport in which both handler and dog participate, and actually depend on each other to succeed. While folks have been surfing with their dogs for years, competitive dog surfing only began in 2005 in San Diego. It then gained national attention in 2009 when Purina added it to their Incredible Dog Challenge.

The sport of dog surfing is exactly what it appears to be, that is, dogs riding surfboards on ocean waves. These surfing dog are typically assisted by their humans to catch the waves, and sometimes you will see dogs on surfboards riding tandem with their handlers, or even another dog. It is truly an amazing thing to see, even if we have only been able to catch the sport on video and not in person.

They say, just as some dogs like swimming, there are those dogs who have an affinity for surfing. Just like any dog sport, however, you need to have a dog that is well-conditioned and able to follow basic obedience commands.

We first discovered this sport after reading about Golden Retriever Saint Christopher, shown here with his Phlebotomist and Cal Poly student mom, Kathleen "Kat" Yeung. Born on July 19, 2004, Saint has been doing this since he was 6 months of age. Kat said, "I got Saint as a gift when my father was dying of cancer. Saint is my therapy dog, since I've been through a lot of turmoil. I've lived in a domestic violent household, and I've held a lot of resentment against my parents, but Saint has taught me a lot of patience and forgiveness. I think he's very Buddhist." (CLICK HERE to see him in action!)

In a June 2007 article about this team, written by photographer Mike Baird, one can see just how stoked this Golden dude is when it comes to surfing. All Kat has to say is "Let's go surfing," Saint up and running to the door as soon as he simply hears the words "Let's go." Or, just seeing Kat carrying her board across the room, even if she is merely attempting to put it away in the middle of the night, and Saint is all ready at the door as if it is time to hit the waves. According to Mike, Saint's favorite beaches are Morro Bay and Pismo Beach. And, he favors Pismo Beach because the pier there always allows rooms for loads of adoring onlookers . . . which Saint just soaks up like a sponge. 

When Saint is not surfing, he does volunteer work as a therapy dog. He has volunteered at San Luis Obispo, CA's French Hospital Medical Center and at Port San Luis, CA's Avila Beach Marine Institute. Kat and Saint also volunteer at the Women's Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County, CA to help stop domestic violence and watch over kids. And, they are a fundraising duo, as we see with many dogs competing in the sport of Dog Surfing, competing in the Helen Woodward Animal Center's Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon which raises funds to support their programs.

According to David Twining of San Diego Dog Surfing, where Every Dog Has His Wave, it is not hard to get involved in the sport. First, you'll need a dog and a big, thick, buoyant surfboard. Once you've got those, you're almost ready to go after following the 4 steps below.

1. Your dog has to like water. Some dogs do and some dogs don't. It is up to you to ensure that your dog does not freak out when it gets wet or it could go crazy and hurt itself or someone else. We don't want to give dog surfing a bad name. So ease it in. Bring your dog to the beach a few times and coax him into the waves. Dump salt water on him if you need to.

2. Once your dog is comfortable in the water, it is time to get the pooch on a surfboard. There are two techniques for this. Both should be practiced when there are almost no waves. Summer is a great time for San Diego dog surfing because the waves tend to be smaller. An angry sea will scare your dog. The first method is to get your dog to stand on the board in just a couple inches of water (by force if necessary) and gradually pull the board into deeper water. You may have to hold the dog on the board, and is often easier with two people. The second method is to go swimming with your dog in deeper water and pull the board out with you. Try to get the dog to climb up on the board on its own. Once they realize the board is a stable place to crawl out of the water, you're almost there.

3. Once your dog is comfortable standing on the board, it is time to dog surf. Find a day with small (1-2 ft) waves. Once the dog is on the board, face the board toward the shore, wait for a wave, and gently push the surfboard so that it catches the wave. It is essential that you push gently because you don't want your dog to freak out and run away.

4. Practice, Practice Practice. You own the dog, and your dog can own those waves. Which pretty much means you can own those waves. Get out there for some San Diego dog surfing.

Most Surf Dog competitions involve a dog standing on the surfboard as their humans pushes it to catch a wave. Some dogs are able to turn and ride the wave for a quite a distance, while others may jump from their boards into the water after only a few seconds. The competitions may be separated into the following categories: small dogs, medium dogs, large dogs, and teams (dogs and humans together). Dogs are judged on length of ride, how many waves are caught, and overall impression. The judging panel may be comprised of well known surfers, celebrities, and members of animal protection groups. Most dog surf events support wonderful causes and raise great sums for charity.

Meet Rip Curl Ricki


Judy Fridono, like many other Golden owners, has a website for her girl, “Rip Curl Ricki“. However, it details far more than her surfing activities as Judy is very much involved in dog training and development. Due to the pain and degenerative nature of  a juvenile rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in late childhood, Judy was limited in her physical activities. Instead, she channeled her energy into charitable causes. She puppy raised for Canine Companions for Independence and completed (Bergin University's) Assistance Dog Institute's A.S. degree program, working with Dr. Bonnie Bergin, the incredible woman who initially originated the concept of the service dog. Judy, who has trained dogs at several service dog organizations, is currently a service dog trainer for Paws’itive Teams, also active with her own service dog through their goal directed therapy program working with children.

Judy, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), is also the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Puppy Prodigies, a Neo-natal and Early Learning Program. Their objective is to provide their “prepped” puppies to owner-trainers, assistance dog, and other canine training organizations with the goal of decreasing the number of dogs that are released from programs due to temperament or behavior issues.

As the wait for a service dog can be several years & the cost for training quite high ($25,000 per dog), it is shocking to realize that a fair percentage of dogs in training programs do not graduate. That is why Puppy Prodigies is such an important organization.

Given Judy's physical limitations, Team Ricki was created to help with taking Ricki in the water to surf, attend practices, accompany her to contests, give surfing advice, help with fundraising, take pictures/video at events, and more. If you would like to get involved, unleash the fun, and be part of Team Ricki, please send an email to

Ricki is the youngest surFUR on the San Diego Dog Surfing Association Team, and is also a member of the Golden SurFURS team, which is composed of all Golden Retrievers! Check out the many Golden SurFURS in the video here. It is a true delight.

Although still a novice, now each time Ricki surfs in competitions, she has a personal mission called "Surfin' for Paws-abilities" which raises money for charitable causes. I do hope you visit her site and check out this mission so that you can donate.

Ricki will be involved with two fundraising competitions in September and October 2009. Her newest project, however, presents a unique and exciting challenge: training to surf tandem with Patrick Ivison, who suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of an accident when he was only 14 months old. Look below to see a Today Show interview with Patrick, who was diagnosed quadriplegic, but he is able to surf using an adaptive surfboard.

Paws’itive Teams, a non-profit organization that places service dogs with persons with disabilities, caught wind of Patrick’s story and matched him with a Golden Retriever named Kona. The costs of training a service dog, and specialized physical therapy are steep, however, which is where Ricki's knack for surfing and fundraising comes in. Ricki will be carving waves in San Diego for the next several weeks to prepare for the Helen Woodward Surf Dog Surf-a-thon in Del Mar on September 13, 2009 as well as the Surf City Surf Dog event in Huntington Beach on October 11, where she hopes to share a wave with Patrick.

Here is Rip Curl Ricki's story in her *own* words:
Aloha!! My name is Ricochet, and this is my surfing "tail". I'm a female golden retriever who enjoys catching waves, and hanging 20!  I'm known on the doggie surf scene as "Rip Curl Ricki", and because I'm petite, as well as the youngest surFUR on the San Diego Dog Surfing Association Team, I also go by "The little surFUR girl". I'm a member of the Golden SurFUR team too, which is made up of... you guessed it... Golden Retrievers! 

I was born on January 25, 2008, and was the 9th puppy in a litter of 10. I was born, and raised as part of the Puppy Prodigies Neo-Natal & Early Learning Program with hopes of becoming a service dog, and helping people. But, they tell me I'm a little too interested in chasing birds, and other small animals. So, my career path changed, and instead of being a service dog, I became a SURFice dog!  Now, each time I surf in competitions, I have a personal mission called "Surfin' for Paws-abilities" which raises money for charitable causes.

I started my training at just 13 days of age, before my eyes were even open! 

As part of the Puppy Prodigies program, I was exposed to many new and exciting things in my whelping box, and then the puppy play yard. I had lots of obstacles to maneuver over, under, around, on top of, etc including swings, wobble boards, skateboards, and many other un-even surfaces. As a result, I developed an amazing sense of balance.

At 8 weeks of age, in addition to my service dog skills training, I began my surf dog training on a boogie board in a kiddie pool. Most of my training from that point on was conducted at home, on dry land. In the summer of 2008, I had a few practice sessions in the calm water of Fiesta Island.

In September of 2008, I entered the Helen Woodward's Surf dog surf-a-thon, but was just a young grommet... just beginning to go in the small waves of the ocean.

After that competition, and as winter approached, I continued working on dry land exercises.

In the spring of 2009, I began going out to Fiesta Island again, taking small paw steps before taking the giant leap to the ruff waters of the ocean. I had been in the ocean about three times when I got a last minute call to compete in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge Surf Competition on June 12, 2009.

As a result, I went to the ocean and practiced every day for a week before the contest!  I was still quite a novice grommet at 15 months old, but managed to win 3rd place in the large dog category, and was only one point off from the 2nd place winner.

I quickly progressed with each surf practice, and was going out further in the waves. I entered the Loews surf dog competition on June 20th, 2009, and although I didn't win, I had a great time and continued to improve.

I then competed in the Surfin Paws Dog Jam in Huntington Beach on July 11th, 2009. With the assistance of my new friend, Peter... I surfed well enough to be in the semi-finals. During the semi-finals, I became quick buddies with Bill, Jack, and Doug who helped me surf into the finals. I didn't win or place at Surfin Paws, but my new friends in the San Diego Dog Surfing Association presented me with an award for "the best new talent". I continue to practice, and continue to improve. I will be entering two more competitions this summer 2009.

Most of the dog surfing competitions benefit charities with proceeds being donated to them. So in addition to having fun, and competing... the surfing I do makes a difference! 

As I mentioned above, I also have a personal mission to help people on a one-on-one basis through my surfing. So, this little surFUR girl developed a fundraising program called "Surfin' for Paws-abilities", which benefits individuals with disabilities, athletes with disabilities, adaptive surfers, individual pets, and other causes. Each time I enter a surf competition, I fundraise for a specific individual or cause, and the money raised is donated accordingly. To learn more about this really rad program, surf on over to my Surfin' for Paws-abilities page.

When I'm not surfing or fund raising, I'm busy learning service dog tasks to further help the disabled community. I'm also involved in goal assisted therapy work with children through Pawsitive Teams.


Teach Your Dog To Surf: Beginner Surf Dog Training Tips and Video Lessons
There have been so many people that have helped me surf, since mom has physical "issues" that keep her from being able to handle me in the water. Other people have very graciously come forth to assist me, especially my surf coach, Robbie Nelson. In the spirit of focusing on what we can do, rather than want we can't, we realized dog training was something we CAN do. So, to thank all those who have helped me, I'd like to pay it forward... and offer my help to other dogs who are new to surfing, or those who may be having "issues" with it, by providing some surf dog training tips and videos. I figure if these dogs learn to surf, they'll enter surf dog contests, and the organizations that host the contests can raise more funds for their causes, and change more lives!   

These tips will take you to the point of surfing in the waves, and then you can contact one of the great organizations that give surf dog lessons in the ocean... Helen Woodward Animal Center's Doggies Surf Clicnics, Su'ruff Camp Program at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Surf City Surf Dog, and Coronado Surfing Academy.

Because my mom is a certified dog trainer, and believes in foundation training for pretty much anything dog related, I started my training when I was just a wee pup... but, you can start at any age! Our philosophy of training is relationship based, meaning two way communication! Relationship based training creates a very solid human-canine bond, and you'll have fun exploring your dog's mind when you listen to what he/she has to say!

If you saw my inspirational SURFice dog video, you already know that my mom believes in letting dogs choose their path in life. Rather than trying to mold dogs into human expectations, she believes in allowing them to be who they truly are, even if it's something completely opposite of the original goals. I still like to chase birds, and mom gives me plenty of opportunities to do so, but I can control my impulses too. So, if you're just having a problem with distractibility, these tips can help. But, if your dog really doesn't want to surf, don't make them.

The main thing with relationship based training is... you'll be improving your human-canine bond while building confidence, and having fun sharing an activity both in and out of the water, or wherever your dog may lead you!  The tips only take a few minutes a day, and most can be performed in the comfort of your own home! These tips are perfect for those who...

  • Are new to dog surfing, and want to build a foundation before hitting the waves.
  • Want to do some surf dog training at home, especially in the winter!
  • Have encountered "issues" such as jumping off the board, or distractibility.
  • Want to foster a stronger human/canine bond that easily transfers to the water.
  • Have limited time, and can't get to the beach regularly.
  • Want to add surfing to their training repertoire!

Ready? Well, then get on over to my Video Lessons and Task Sheets.

     Surfing Articles and Groups     Dog Surfing Competitions and Resources


Kalani (shown on left), one of the Golden SurFURS Golden Retriever team members, won FIRST PLACE in the "big dog" category of the Loews Coronado Bay surf competition on June 20, 2009. She must be pretty incredible as a surfer.

Check out this video of their surf team at the 2009 Loews Coronado Bay surf competition. We cannot even begin to imagine all the fun and good times that were had by one and all.

If you want to share in some great Golden surfing photography and musings, do check out Sue's Random Ramblings (with Golden Retreievers Jack, Jill & Kona). Sue is a member of Golden SurFURS.



Some great Golden Retriever dog surf postings include:
 ●  Sun Surf Diva
 ●  Dog Surf Competition
 ●  Golden SurFURS in action
 ●  Surf Dogs ROCK
 ●  Surf's Up (Too bad the sun wasn't)
 ●  Crazy busy
 ●  A Weekend of Fun & Sun.

And, the photographs below of Scooter and Jill, both members of the Golden SurFurs, as they surfed in the Loews Coronado Beach Resort Dog Surf Dog Competition, are simply fabulous. Photographer K.C. Alfred, of the Union-Tribune, did an incredible job.

Golden Scooter of Golden SurFURS surfs in 2009 Loews Coronado Beach Resort Dog Surf Dog Competition

Golden Jill of Golden SurFURS surfs in 2009 Loews Coronado Beach Resort Dog Surf Dog Competition