A dog surf competition sounds incredible, right? And it was.
The McKenna Subaru Annual Surf City Surf Dog Competition® has been happening for nine years. To put that in perspective, it started before most of their competitors were even born. Every year, thousands of people gather at Huntington Dog Beach to attend this free event, whether their dogs are surfing or not. There were a ton of community partners involved, such as Westie Rescue of Orange County and OC SPCA, as well as some of our favorite doggie brands, like Outward Hound!
This was the first time Fitdog was part of the event and had ever witnessed a live surf dog competition. What we found most interesting was that it was really hard to see the dogs surfing as every dog was surrounded by a sea of handlers. This got us wondering: how do you assure a dog’s safety with a sport as treacherous as surfing?
Thankfully, there were plenty of lifeguards on duty.
We talked to Dan Nykolayko, dog dad to Cherie the Surfing Frenchie about keeping his surfing dog safe. The one paramount rule, he says, is that “most importantly, she never goes in the water without a life vest.” All competing dogs were required to wear life vests. Additionally, competitors were closely watched by handlers and lifeguards as they rode in on the waves.
Despite having a bad wipeout last year, Dana Smolinski’s dog, Major, was back to compete at this year’s event. She said the key to rehabilitating her pup was “not to coerce him into it. Especially recovering from the wipeout, we just build up slowly… He really lets you know when he wants to go out.” Taking it slowly and letting the dog lead was a common theme among the surf dog handlers. (Never force dogs to participate in any activity they don’t want to.)
The surf competition was a day full of fun and excitement. But it was truly through the efforts of the handlers and lifeguards on duty that this event was safe and successful. Thanks to the participants and the partners of Huntington Beach Dog Beach, surfing is definitely a legitimate sport!
Do you have experience surfing with your dog? Or has your dog ever participated in a dog sport? Comment below!