By Arden Moore
I grew up near a small lake in northwest Indiana where the only wave action came when my older siblings hurled themselves off the anchored raft to perform cannonballs into the water. During my decade living in Lantana, I loved swimming the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean year-round.
Today, I live within a mile of the Pacific Ocean and share my home with a 12-pound terrier-mix named Cleo who would rather “hang 20” on a surfboard than fetch a tennis ball in the backyard.
Cleo is a proud member of the So Cal Surf Dogs, a group of canines ranging from a Bernese mountain dog named Nani to a bulldog named Dozer to plenty of dogs matching Cleo’s size. They range in age from 1 to 11 and include a bunch of water-loving dogs whose heritage will forever remain a mystery.
Many dogs enjoy water — whether it involves racing along the shore, splashing into the water to fetch a tossed ball or sunning on the deck of a boat. But the new water-loving breed these days is the surf dog, the canine who lives to balance on a foam surfboard (better gripping surface for their paws) and catch waves that glide him to shore. What started out as a fluke, a curiosity about seven or eight years ago has now evolved into a canine sport attracting thousands of awed spectators.
And on June 16, surf dog history was made at the Loews’ Coronado Bay Resort Surf Event held in Imperial Beach in San Diego County.
Members of the So Cal Surf Dogs, including Cleo, packed onboard a specially designed, 15-foot surfboard and rode into the Guinness Book of World Records three times. Their first record: most dogs to ride a single surfboard (17 dogs). Their second record: joining legendary surfer Scott Chandler in setting a world record for most dogs (eight) with a surfer. Their third record: most dogs (eight) with a surf tandem (Chandler and his daughter, Tyler). The performance not only raised applause and worldwide media coverage, but generated donations for the ASPCA.
On the East Coast, the surf dog garnering the most headlines is a black-and-white pit bull mix with the cool name, Booker D. Surfdog. He and his owner, Adam Steinberg, ventured across the country to surf at the dog beach in Coronado a few years back, but now prefer staging surf dog demonstrations up and down the East Coast. They hope to stage an event in Boynton Beach before the end of this year and are working on plans with Nomad Surf Shop owners.
What is scheduled is the Booker D. Surfdog Space Coast Invitational set for Oct. 6-7 in Melbourne. The event will benefit the Central Brevard County Humane Society.
“We’re looking forward to surfing off Melbourne because the waves roll in on a long push off the coast and Booker can ride a very long wave in — much longer than the waves in the Pacific,” says Steinberg, who readily admits that his dog is a far better surfer than he is. No matter if your dog likes to make a splash in the ocean, a lake or a pool, here are some tips to keep your dog safe:
n Fit your dog with a proper-fitting life jacket. Select one that sports a handle on top to make it easier for you to grab your dog.
n Scope out the water before allowing your dog to enter. Do not let your dog swim in small ponds constructed to drain water from housing developments because they contain a lot of harsh and harmful chemicals. Skip ponds at golf courses because of the parasites that harbor in those murky waters.
n Teach your dog how to enter and exit a pool. Start with water play in the shallow end and teach him that this is a “safety spot” to allow him to get out of the pool. Better yet, invest in floatable doggy ramps or stairs.
n Keep them healthy. No matter where your dogs make a splash, make sure they are up to date on all their vaccines to protect against parasites and giardia. Always fit them with life vests and thoroughly rinse them with clean water afterward.
n Know when enough is enough. End the workout before your dog becomes overtired and prone to injury.
Even though Cleo may have the drive to surf for two hours, I limit her time in the water and reward her with healthy treats, a warm bath and a therapeutic massage. This post-surf routine keeps her motivated to enjoy the next surf outing.
To learn more about surf dogs, I invite you to visit the So Cal Surf Dog website: www.socalsurfdogs.com.
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and certified pet first aid instructor. She happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her Oh Behave! show on Pet Life Radio.com and learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.