Sur-fur Dogs Ride the Waves
Four-legged beachgoers hang loose at annual competition.
After reading an article in USA Today, Joanne Esposito decided that her English Bulldog Louie was going to become a surf dog. Esposito was neither fazed by the fact that she had no prior surfing experience nor deterred that the only time Louie spent in water was during his monthly bath. So the sixty-year-old left her husband, who was in the process of selling their Weehawken, New Jersey bar, and headed to San Diego with dog in tow. After getting her bearings in a new city, she signed up her pet for dog surfing lessons at the Coronado Bay Surfing School.
As Joanne predicted, Louie took to the water -- but Joanne did not anticipate that the Southern California water would be cold. "The average water temperature year round is 65 degrees. Thank God for my husband who supported my craziness, moved out here, and now works as Louie's surfing coach," says Esposito.
Although many people would expect breeds like Golden Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs that already have an affinity for the water to be the most natural surfers, quite a few English Bulldogs participate in the sport.
"It is not about the breed," says Doug Hokstad, pet parent to Dozer, a popular English Bulldog on the scene. Hokstad explained that although a surf dog must like the water and like to swim, he must also like the board and want to ride the board in the water. Eventually, with practice, the dogs learn to balance on the board. "Really, it is never about your wanting your dog to surf -- but his wanting to ride the waves," emphasizes Hokstad.
Doug and Dozer are active members of the So Cal Surf Dogs, a group of fun-loving dogs and their owners who promote dog surfing for mental and physical stimulation. The group is known for its annual surf dog calendar -- as well as their support of many charities in San Diego.
Although the group gets together regularly to surf and just enjoy each other's company, many dogs in the group also compete in local surfing competitions as well as the "big three" -- the Annual Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition, Purina Incredible Dog Challenge's Surfing Competition and the Helen Woodward Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon. In fact, most of the dogs, including Dozer, got their start by attending and eventually participating in the Loews Coronado Bay Surf Dog Competition.
According to Anne Stephany, Director of Public Relations for the Loews Hotel, the competition started as an extension of Loews Hotels' award-winning Loews Loves Pets program and has become a hugely successful fundraiser for non-profit organizations.
Dogs compete in three distinct heat classes: Small Surf Dogs (for dogs 40 pounds and under), Large Surf Dogs (for dogs 41 pounds and over) and Tandem Surfing (in which dogs and/or humans can surf on the same board together). Each dog has 10 minutes to catch his or her top two waves and is scored on confidence level, length of ride and overall ability to "grip it and rip it." Winners score the ultimate pet vacation at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
When asked which heat is the most popular, Stephany replied, "tandem seems to be the crowd's favorite."
This past June, in the sixth annual Loews competition, Golden Retriever Kalani won the Large Surf Dog Heat. Additionally, Kalani competed in Tandem with her sibling Ricochet as team Twisted Sister. Although both dogs raise money for charity, Ricochet is nationally known from her YouTube videos for SURFice work and her AKC Humane Award, given to her for raising thousands of dollars for the disabled.
This year, the So Cal Surf Dog Team also broke a record with five dogs surfing on the board, and took second place in Tandem. But the Tandem winner of this year's competition was professional surfer and board maker, Scott Chandler. While Chandler supported his daughter, Tyler, who elegantly posed over his head, their dog Zoey proved that dogs can hang ten too, as she strategically placed her paws to hang off the long board.
"Just like a person, a dog can't just love the water to be a good surfer," says Chandler. "Eventually, you need to have the proper equipment." Scott makes custom doggy surf boards outfitted with 5mm of Hydro-Turf Traction which serves as a stabilizer and a cushion if a dog wipes out. Although Scott has made boards for SURFurs like Kalani, many surf dog parents start out by buying foam boards.
Additionally, dog owners must purchase necessary equipment for their dogs to be safe. At Dog's Nite Out, Michael Drenta sells life vests, wet suites and other accessories. "Although you want your dog to look good out there and have a good time, it's all about keeping it safe."
Check out our gallery of the Sixth Annual Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition by clicking here.
Pictured: Golden retriever Kalani won First Place in the Large Dog Heat. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte Reed)
Do you think your dog would enjoy surfing? How does your pet behave around water? Tell us below!
4 years ago
Skitters is terrified of the water she would hate surfing, I am not sure about Cricket as for my dad's dog Shasta she loves her baths so maybe? Skitters will try to aviod puddles outside when it has been raining unless they are mud puddles then she loves them. Also one time I took Skitters to the lake with me when my brothers and step dad went fishing on an island dock I don't fish but I went along with Skitters and walked her around the island. for a few minutes I stepped off the dock on to the giant rocks right above the water and Skitters stood there with me and then she took a wrong step and fell in the lake she did swim over to the dock to get out of the water but it really scared her and me both. When she was swimming it was not a gentle swim but a paniced swim to the shore I picked her up outta the water before she got to the shore. Also those pink polka-dot doggie life jackets seem to be the top seller at petco right now! If I were to get one for Skitters I would have to get her a yellow one she would tear the pink one up she hates that color I'm not fond of it either though.
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