Want to go out and experience the sun, surf and sand with your pooch? Now you can! Kylie Baracz finds out how to teach your dog to surf.
Got your beach bag packed, umbrella under arm and towel at the ready? What about your pooch? Hitting Australian shores is the new sport known as dog surfing — perfect for summer. Founded on the shores of Hawaii, dog surfing officially launched in Australia as a feature attraction to the 2012 Noosa Festival of Surfing. Known as the Surfing Dog Spectacular, the event wowed beachgoers and surfers alike. Sponsored by vetshopaustralia.com.au, the attraction has become one of the most popular events featured at the festival, attracting large crowds — more than the actual professional surfing competition.
Former tandem surfing world champion and professional dog trainer, Chris De Aboitiz, has been involved in the event since its inception and has been surfing with dogs for more than 15 years. Affectionately known as The Pack, De Aboitiz and his three dogs — Border Collie Lani, Kelpie cross Border Collie Rama and Australian Shepherd Murf — have been spreading the word about dog surfing and how it can strengthen the bond between dogs and their owner. “Since we started surfing with dogs 15 years ago, there was simply no one else doing it,” says De Aboitiz. “Now there are dogs on boards all around the world. It is a great way to spend quality time with your dog while you are doing something both you and your dog love.”
Is your dog ready to get on board?
De Aboitiz has some simple steps to follow to get your dog out onto the waves:
- First put your dog in a “sit and stay” position on the beach
- Then invite them onto the board on the beach in a “sit, stay” position
- Let your dog stay there for a few moments and then invite them off the board. Sometimes I will use a lead when teaching a new dog to invite it on and off the board.
- Put the board by the water’s edge and invite your dog on the board and slide the board into the water with your dog staying on the board in a “sit” position. The water should be calm and flat and this stage!
- Let your dog float around on the board and then bring the board back to the beach and invite the dog off. Now you’re ready to take your dog for a paddle in the flat water.
- Paddle your dog to a “happy” place — for example a sandbar where you can run and play with your dog.
- After one or two trips you will have trouble keeping your dog off the board!
De Aboitiz says any breed of dog can surf, however, smaller dogs allow riders better balance in the surf.
What to look out for
Even the most experienced surfing dogs can fall off their board. De Aboitiz says you need to teach your dog to swim back and get onto the board again for their own safety. “When your dog falls off the board, teach them how to swim back to you and help them up onto the board. Ensure your dog’s two front paws are on the board before you pull them up,” he says. To reduce the chance of the dog falling off, De Aboitiz says, “Practice your stand-up paddle skills with your dog in flat water before you venture out into more challenging conditions.”
Surfing Dog Spectacular
The vetshopaustralia.com.au Surfing Dog Spectacular 2014 was again headlined by De Aboitiz and his Natural Balance Dog Training Pack. The event was held during the Cricks Noosa Festival of Surfing, from the 9th to 15th of March 2014. The positive feedback, large crowds and presence of celebrity judges, including Dr Harry Cooper and Layne Beachley, has so far added to the success and buzz of the event — which for the past four years has proven to be a fun, family friendly event for pooches, professionals, pet lovers and the public alike. For more information about the event, visit noosafestivalofsurfing.com or vetshopaustralia.com.au
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