Hanging 20 With the Surfing Dogs of San Diego

You might think the idea of a dog surfing contest is kind of silly, and you're right, but it's just that sort of silliness that makes the Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition so much darn fun! It's a great way to spend a day at the beach with a bunch of dogs and support a good cause in the process. While this was the 7th annual contest, I regret that it was my first attendance at the contest -mostly because I only heard about it on the news after it already ended. That's why when I found out about the event ahead of time this year, I marked every calendar I have to make sure I made it.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I still missed the small dog part of the competition, which also meant that I missed a few world records being made -namely most dogs surfing on one board at one time, most dogs surfing on a board at one time with a human and most dogs surfing on a board at one time with two humans. While I can't find any Creative Commons images of the little dog surfers, I was able to get a hold of this video that features a few of them along with interviews with some participants.

(Video Link)

I was also able to find a few images of the world record attempts on the Flickr stream of the always wonderful San Diego Shooter, aka Nathan Rupert. Here you can see all the human and pups working to get things lined up for the most dogs surfing on one board record -apparently they managed to get 20 dogs on this custom-made board!

And in case you were wondering, yes, they actually did get going.

If you think that's impressive though, check out this image Nathan captured of the world record attempt featuring two humans, Scott Chandler and his daughter Tyler, and seven dogs.

Despite missing the world record attempts and the small dogs category, there was still a whole lot of action going on when we did get there -and tons of precious pups. In fact, there were dozens of non-competing dogs that still came decked out in their best beach attire.

For those that didn't think to bring sunglasses for their dogs, there was even a booth selling them so your puppy wouldn't feel left out.

If you're wondering how the competition worked, well, it was broken into three categories: small dogs (under 40 pounds), big dogs (over 40 pounds) and tandem rides featuring one or more dogs or at least one dog and one human. Each of these categories was then broken into smaller groups (called heats) so the dogs wouldn't risk bumping into one another. There were usually around four contestants per heat although the last one only had one participant.

The dogs would line up on the sand before their heat, then the announcer would introduce each one to the crowd before indicating the start of the heat. Don't worry, everyone had to put on a life jacket before hitting the waves.

Each heat lasted 10 minutes and each dog was allowed to catch a maximum of five waves. They would then be judged on their top two waves.

Of course, before each pup could actually catch a wave, they had to be pushed out on their board because despite the fact that they're surprisingly good at surfers, they aren't great at paddling their board out or getting on to it once they're in the water.

Of course, this also means the handlers had to help the dogs go over some pretty decent breakers before they were actually ready to catch a wave. That's why every competitor had at least two people helping them out.

Once the boards were out far enough, the handlers would hold on to the board and steady it until the right wave came to catch the board.

Once the waves came, you'd be amazed how fast some of those dogs went and how well some of them managed to balance on the boards. In fact, many of them would turn in circles while surfing so they could check out all the action.

While I know some people would immediately claim that the dogs must be miserable or terrified, most of them seemed to love it. In fact, some, like Louie here, seemed to hardly be able to wait for their turn to hit the waves.

And once they caught a wave, many of them looked like they couldn't be happier skimming along the surface of the water.

Some of them even looked like they knew what they were doing and were planning ahead.

While the event was really silly, it still wasn't taken too lightly. In fact, one dog, Blondie, had her own cheering section.

Plus, the press seemed to take their coverage of the event very seriously, working to not only get every possible shot of the surfers, but also interviews with the owners of the pets who did well.

All participants earned medals for their participation to celebrate their dedication to the sport of dog surfing. (Like I said, it's pretty silly, but also adorable).

While none of the participants were overly competitive, there were still winners for each category. In fact, little Kona here won third place in the small dogs contest, thereby earning her owners brunch at the Loews Resort (which is a pretty nice place for those of you who don't live in San Diego). Second place winners got free dinner at a really expensive restaurant. As for first place, they won 2 free nights at the Loews Resort, room service for their dog, a 40 pound bag of dog food and more.

Of course, all of this didn't come free, entry fees were upwards of $50, although that did also include a nice gift basket. Don't feel like people were being exploited though, all of the money went to the ASPCA to help less fortunate animals who don't have owners who love them enough to take them surfing.

There were no abused or neglected animals here though, in fact, some owners really babied their critters like this woman who was holding her giant pit bull as though it were a baby.

Given that the dog's style accounted for part of the judge's decision, many of the competitors decided to get all decked out in their best beach duds. It certainly helped, after all, Kaluni there on the right scored second place in the large dogs category and Ricochet one the left won first place in the large dogs category and second (along with Good Morning America Correspondent Cameron Mathison ) in the tandem contest.

Of course, it wasn't based completely on looks. You can tell that Ricochet had some good skills when it came to riding tandem. With their low center of gravity, all of the dogs were able to stay on the boards better than their human riders.

Of course, first place in the tandem event went to Scott Chandler, who also helped set the record for most dogs surfing with a human. When it was just him and his dog Zoey though, things went really well.

While I was bummed to have missed the small dogs part of the contest, the tandem was definitely the highlight anyway. In fact, until then, I had no idea the two pups sitting in front of me (one with her own chair even) were going to be adorable little surfing stars pretty soon. Look how unassuming little TJ was.

While I wasn't able to get a good picture of TJ and her friend Ellie May on their board, once again Nathan Rupert saved the day. The two were so good that Ellie even won third place in the tandem event.

Of course, even those that didn't do so well in the tandem group were still a blast to watch. Just look at these three giant, shaggy siblings try to squeeze together on one board to catch a wave. They did eventually go about five feet before two of them fell off.

If you couldn't tell already, the event was a lot of fun and I'd definitely recommend attending a dog surfing event if you ever get the chance and if you have a friendly dog, bring him with you. For those that just can't get enough photos of the event head over to my Flickr or San Diego Shooter's to get more dog surfing goodness.

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