Nani, the 2009 Surfin' Paws champion, earns her title at Huntington Beach.
Nani, the 2009 Surfin' Paws champion, earns her title at Huntington Beach. Diane Edmonds
Kia, a Russell terrier, competes at the Surfin' Paws Dog Jam.
Kia, a Russell terrier, competes at the Surfin' Paws Dog Jam. Diane Edmonds
Abbie takes a turn at the Surfin' Paws Dog Jam.
Abbie takes a turn at the Surfin' Paws Dog Jam. Diane Edmonds
Southern California, the birthplace of '60s surf culture, is seeing a new trend: surfing dogs.
We're not talking about a few wonder pooches — these dogs are taking classes and even entering surf competitions.
"That's Angus," Gini Moncur happily indicates the chihuahua mix who just caught a 10-inch wave. "He really enjoys this." Participants of the surf clinic cheer Angus from the beach. Angus promptly follows his feat by turning tail to the tip of his board.
Backwards on the board seems to be the style of preference for the novice surfing dogs. Others prefer lying down.
"It's baby steps," clinic instructor Rene Bruce says. "What we really try to promote is the dogs wanting to get on the board and go have some fun."
That's what most dogs are having — especially the ones chasing the bodyboards — when Bobby Gorgeous, the star pupil of last week, shows up.
"Not to discriminate or anything, but you wouldn't think of a Pomeranian being a surf dog," Bruce says. "And he did so great, I couldn't believe it."
The small blond dog hits the water running and then jumps on the board. This is his last chance to train before the surf competition.
The Big Day
More than 40 dogs are entered in the Surfin' Paws Dog Jam in Huntington Beach. The sun's out, there are 2-foot swells, and the pros on their soft foam boards are getting in some practice time.
One of the contestants is Hunter, a golden retriever in a neon doggie life vest. Owner Rose Jeffrey says they've both been surfing for four months now.
"It's a way for me to spend time in the water with my dog. And now that my children are grown, I need an activity to use the surfboards that are left in my garage," she says, laughing.
The crowd spots a celebrity in the water — Tyson the famous skateboarding bulldog.
"We're here for the fun," Tyson's owner, Jim Blauvelt, says as the pair shake off the sand and salt water. "There's some serious competitors here today that we can't hold a candle to. Now if it was skateboarding, that would be different."
The contest gets under way. The two leading favorites are Nani, an 85-pound Bernese mountain dog, and Buddy, a Jack Russell. Both catch 3-foot waves and ride them all the way to shore. The spectators cheer.
Veteran surfer Sam Wenzel is impressed with the competition. "One dog actually sat down on his haunches to catch the wave, and then the board started to tilt, and he put his leg out to steady it. It was pretty incredible," he says.
At the end of the day, it's the style of the Bernese mountain dog Nani who wins the judges over to take the grand prize. Nani's owner Peter Noll says the dog's first time in the water was just nine months ago.
"She's a newbie, but she's a natural. She really has a good time," he says.
The stress of competition over, Nani and the rest of the contestants join the other beach dogs, rolling in the sand and lounging under umbrellas. One even caught a Frisbee.