World Dog Surfing Championship: Abbie Girl Takes Top Pooch The dogs are scored by a group of three judges. "No. 1 is stay on the board and No. 2 is looking happy," one judge explained.
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Hang 20: Abbie Girl Takes Top Pooch In World Dog Surfing Championship

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Hang 20: Abbie Girl Takes Top Pooch In World Dog Surfing Championship

Hang 20: Abbie Girl Takes Top Pooch In World Dog Surfing Championship

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Sometimes on a Monday, you just need to spend some internet time watching the World Dog Surfing Championships or at least hear about it. Laura Klivans of member station KQED takes us to Pacifica, Calif., which hosted the event.

LAURA KLIVANS, BYLINE: The competitors arrive early and find a spot on the sand. There's a too-cool Goldendoodle with a blue mohawk and sunglasses, an older guy coming out of retirement for one final ride and last year's reigning champion, Abbie Girl.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

KLIVANS: Michael Uy is here with his surf dog prodigy, Abbie. She's an Australian Kelpie.

MICHAEL UY: This is Abbie's board bag.

KLIVANS: Her board is custom built for a dog. It's short and has a bright orange blaze down the bottom with her name on it. The 11-year-old has been doing this for most of her life. When Uy first rescued Abbie from a shelter, she was an anxious dog. He'd take her to the beach to mellow her out and socialize her, and they'd swim.

UY: One time, we put her on a surfboard to rest. And she stood up on the board, and we thought, well, why don't we put it on a wave and see what happens? And she just rode it all the way into shore (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG WHINING)

KLIVANS: In a tent nearby, Kihei gets into his wetsuit.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG WHINING)

KLIVANS: The Chihuahua-dachshund mix is 15 years old. He's come out of retirement for this contest. One of his humans is Tina Musto.

So what's Kihei saying right now?

TINA MUSTO: I need to go, right? I need to get going.

KLIVANS: Competitive dog surfing is growing quickly, with contests in Hawaii, Florida, Texas and even Australia. Dogs compete solo - just dog and board - or tandem, either with a human or with another dog. That last category - two dogs on one board - is particularly adorable. Sam Stahl is one of the judges who scores the rides.

SAM STAHL: Number one is stay on the board, and number two is looking happy. No one wants to see a dog terrified at the end of a surf board.

KLIVANS: That seems like not a good fit for that dog.

STAHL: (Laughter) Exactly, exactly.

KLIVANS: It's just minutes before the competition starts, and a huge crowd of people and their non-surfing animals have gathered on the foggy beach. Stahl has a guess why so many showed up.

STAHL: There's a lot going on in the world and a lot of things that have people kind of riled up. And I think it's important for some people to have something like this to look at and smile at. And I mean nothing's more fun than watching dogs surf, honestly (laughter). It's great.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Heat one, report to the water. Heat one, report to the water.

KLIVANS: The solo category is broken out by dog size. On the water, human owners paddle out their pooches and push. It's then up to the dog to ride the wave. Onlookers Paul Young and his son Kaleo spot old man Kihei in the small competition.

PAUL YOUNG: There's Kihei. Whoa, he's hanging on.

KALEO: He's going sideways.

(CHEERING)

KLIVANS: In the medium size heat, Marisa Plaice cheers on Abbie, the Kelpie who's showing off.

MARISA PLAICE: She never falls off the board. It's amazing the other dogs usually seem to fall at some point, but she just - she hangs on. It's that low center of gravity I think.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

KLIVANS: The crowd loses it when two solo surfing dogs collide and one hops onto the board of the other. Abbie, the Australian Kelpie, makes it to the championship round. The finalists head out on the water. And in the background - I am not kidding - a whale breaches. After a push from her owner, Abbie surfs maybe 20 feet. She lifts a front leg to balance and lands on the beach. The judges notice Abbie's footwork.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Number one, top dog - Abbie.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

KLIVANS: Abbie's prize is a trophy. Her human gets a bottle of wine. For NPR News, I'm Laura Klivans in Pacifica, Calif.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY, HOT DOG!")

THE SWAMP COOLERS: (Singing) Hey, hot dog.

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