It should come as no surprise, really. The dog-human bond is strong enough that nothing else can prevent a dog from coming along with his owner. And when he’s got a surfer for a master, chances are, he’ll come right with him into the water.
It helps that there are more people into stand up paddleboarding these days. Unlike regular surfing, where the maneuvers on a surfboard can be quick and twisty, paddleboarding is relatively a predictable sport. One can bring about just about any pet that can stand on a board. From cats to rabbits or parrots to sheep; there’s even a surfer rat!
But dogs are, by far, the most common on surfboards these days.
That’s because they love the water, unlike, skittish cats. And apparently, dog surfing is very popular because there’s now a competition for dog surfers in California.
Held every August, the World Dog Surfing competition aims to raise funds for animal charity. Dogs compete alone on a board, or partnered with their owner or with a dog pal. It’s a lot of fun and heartwarming, which just goes to show how inclusive surfing really is.
Dog Surfing as a Demonstration Sport
And to think that decades ago, this activity was unheard of.
The earliest record of dog surfing was in the 1920s, when beachboy Philip K. Auna and his dog Night Hawk achieved their fifteen minutes of fame riding the waves of Waikiki. As the years went on, other surfers and their dogs followed but it wasn’t until in recent years that dog surfing gained widespread popularity.
In fact, whenever it was performed, dog surfing was treated as a demonstration sport - usually as a sidelight to a main surfing competition. It entertained the non-surfing crowd and helped draw attention to the main event.
It wasn’t until 2006 that surfers began to organize dog surfing competitions in California.
World Championships for Dog Surfing
According to the competition’s official website, the first surf dog competition was organized by the authors of the book “The Dog’s Guide to Surfing". It was held in San Diego, California and was so successful that similar dog surfing events began sprouting up all over the world.
Today, it’s now officially known as the Norcal Dog Surfing event & World Championships for Dog Surfing. It draws a lot of dog talent all over the world, along with the amateurs. It’s during this time that the dogs take center stage while their surfer-owners are at the sidelines, taking Instagrammable photos of their canine pets surfing the waves.
Now if all of these makes you want to train your dog to surf, you should know that not every breed takes to surfing like a natural.
Dog Breeds Best for Swimming
In general though, stout hardy breeds are best at standing on a surfboard and surfing. The most famous surfers dogs in the world are Ricochet (Golden Retriever), Abbie (Australian Kelpie), Dozer (English Bulldog), Antonio (Spaniel Mix), Betsy (English Bulldog), Kalani (Golden Retriever), Faith (Pit Bull), Haole Boy (Labrador), Bono (Labrador), Beans (Whippet), Gidget (Pug), Kona Kai (Labradoodle), and Kona (German Shepherd Mix).
Which isn’t to say that a St. Bernard might not like to surf. While I have yet to hear of one surfing, with proper training, one could probably teach a St. Bernard how to ride a surfboard. The secret to it is training them to love the ocean and to equip them with basic swimming skills.
Ocean Training Your Dog
Like housetraining, it’s best to introduce your dog to the ocean while he’s still a puppy. Help him develop his trust with the ocean by taking him for a walk along the beach during early mornings or late afternoons when the temperature isn’t too hot and tides are shallow enough for him to play along the water’s edge. Train him not to drink the seawater.
Once he’s familiar with the scent, sound and taste of the ocean, it’s time to teach him how to swim. If you’re training him at the beach and not in a private pool, choose a shallow and calm spot. Only when he is able to swim in relatively calm waters should you introduce him to the waves.
How to Teach Your Dog to Surf
When teaching him to ride a wave, you and your dog should find a good balance on the board. Avoid placing the dog on the nose of the surfboard. Unless he’s extremely light and the waves you’re planning to ride on are small, you and your dog will most likely take a spill.
The ideal place for him is above the tail and two-thirds up on the surfboard. Also, pick a longboard or funboard in the 7-to-9-foot range when surfing with a dog. This ensures that there is enough space for both of you.
The ocean can be a hostile place for landlubbers, especially for the four-legged kind. Stay away from rocks, reef breaks, and marine fauna when training your dog how to surf. Avoid large waves and leave the surf leashes to the surfboard.
Be attentive to your dog. If he seems hesitant or tired, take a time out. Feed him and let him dry out. You can use a life jacket but like any accessory, the dog should be comfortable enough with it before using it for his surf training.
Here are the easy steps to make them surf:
1. Introduce your dog to the surfboard;
2. Praise the dog when he is on the board;
3. Teach your dog to stay on the surfboard;
4. Keep your dog focused on surfing;
5. Get your dog used to board movement;
6. Get your dog used to a lifejacket;
7. Build confidence in the water;
8. Let him practice what he learned from you while training;
9. Use clicker training to train your dog to stay at his correct position on the board.
Surfers for Life
Teaching your dog to embrace a surfers lifestyle is a rewarding process. It further cements the life-long bond between best friends. And if you’re looking for some cool surfing products to help make you and your dog’s surfing experience really awesome, check our stuff out. For instance, we’ve got an ocean-friendly, organic surfboard wax that’s gonna keep you and your dog from slipping off your surfing board. It’ll be perfect for the World Championships!
Now if I can only train my dog to do a shaka.
Essential Wave Tribe Reads
Life Begins At The End of Your Comfort Zone
Why Oceans are so Important - Everything You Need to Know
Things You Can Do For Trash Free Seas - The Ultimate Guide