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
Saint Christopher, shown here with his Phlebotomist and Cal Poly student
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!)
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.
According to David Twining of San Diego Dog Surfing,
where Every Dog Has His Wave, it is not hard to get involved in the
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
Coronado Bay surf competition. We cannot even begin to imagine all the fun
and good times that were had by one and all.
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
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