dogs and surfing


A time-honored surf world novelty, where a surfing dog owner trains his pet to ride waves, either solo, or on the nose of the board with the owner standing behind. Surfing dogs were filmed in Waikiki as far back as the 1920s. In 1944, National Geographic published a full-page photograph of the "World-champion Dog Surfer, Rusty," and from 1960 forward the surf media has featured bodysurfing dogs, dogs on bodyboards, and a Labrador from Honolulu named Kam who surfed in a semi-prone position while drinking beer from a bottle. Threats have occasionally been made to alert the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but surf-dog owners claim the animals enjoy riding. "Every time I pick up my board," one surfer said, "he's running back and forth across the yard, jumping up and down; he can't wait."

There were two celebrated 20th-century surfing dogs. Sandy, a "poi dog" mongrel from Waikiki, began surfing with noted beachboy Joseph "Scooter Boy" Kaopuiki in 1950. The two appeared in a UPI photograph published in newspapers across the country, and were featured on ABC's You Asked For It! as well as in California surf moviemaker Bud Browne's early films. As Grady Timmons wrote in his 1989 book Waikiki Beachboys, Sandy "could go anywhere in Hawaii, scratch on any door and get a place to sleep, go into any restaurant and be served." When Sandy died in 1958, the Waikiki beachboys bore his ashes to sea in a flotilla of canoes.

Max, a terrier mix belonging to Dave Chalmers of San Diego, first appeared in Surfer magazine in 1977. Three years earlier, Chalmers trained his pet by taping dog biscuits to the nose of his longboard. Max surfed dozens of breaks between Santa Barbara and the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico; he appeared in surf movies, and was featured on the syndicated TV show Amazing Animals. In 1989, Surfer published "Max's Last Ride," a two-page article about the 15- year-old dog's final surf session. "It was a beautiful sight," the magazine reported. "Chalmers and Max gliding along for 60 yards, in perfect trim, with Max rocking back and forth on the nose."

The Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog competition, held in San Diego, has been an annual event since 2006; divisions include Small Dogs, Large Dogs, and Tandem (owner and dog). Similar contests have been held in Hawaii, Florida, and Australia, among other locations.