Surfing With Your Dog
Grab your board and your dog for a great ride.
James W. Keldsen
It’s hot outside, the days are long, and it’s time for fun and relaxation. A sandy beach, rolling surf, and a long board are hard to beat for summertime adventure. If you’ve never surfed, now is the time to try it. If you’re an experienced surfer, consider taking your dog along. She just might enjoy riding the waves with you.
That’s just what John-Paul Eatock of England, has done for most of a decade. He and his dog, Part-Ex, have been surfing together for more than seven years, riding the waves, relaxing, and enjoying each other’s company. Part-Ex is a French Jack Russell Terrier with a penchant for big waves and surfboards.
Soon after adopting the then 3-year-old Part-Ex, Eatock discovered that his new companion enjoyed challenging outdoor activities, too. Over the years, they found adventure together kayaking, cliff jumping, rock climbing, and wind surfing. In fact, Part-Ex has tackled so many different sports that the 2000 Guinness World Records listed him as the dog who participates in the most extreme sports.
Canine surfing is also on Part-Ex’s list of favorites. "I have gotten to know that Part-Ex really enjoys surfing,” Eatock says. "Every time I load the board on the car and the wetsuit in the boot, he jumps into the car and won’t leave it unless I take him out.”
But to enjoy surfing, your dog doesn’t have to go to extremes. She simply must like the water and want to tag along with you, her favorite human companion.
If your dog loves the water, you have a potential candidate for surfing. However, if her experience has mostly been in calm waters, give her time to get comfortable walking and swimming in surf conditions near the shore without a surfboard. When she’s clearly comfortable in the waves, it’s time to introduce the surfboard.
The surfboard must be suitable for the dog, as well as for you. Start with a big board that gives your dog room to stand, as well as offering stability. "Long boards and beginner boards are best,” Eatock says. "The other thing to think about is how well the dog can grip.” He recommends starting with a foam surfboard because it’s "ideal for doggie grip.”
Your dog has to be comfortable on the board before attempting any wave riding. Show her the board on the beach, and let her stand and walk on it on stable ground. Next, Eatock suggests that you let her get used to playing on the board at the water’s edge, so she sees it as a place of safety to get out of the water.
Once she is happy and has learned to be stable on the board, go out in the smallest surf that you can find, slowly increasing the surf size. "Never take your dog into surf that you know she’ll have difficulty swimming in,” Eatock says. As you stand in your usual surfing position, your dog takes the nose of the board.
As with any new adventurous pursuit, let your dog tell you when she’s comfortable in the new environment. "Don’t push or make your dog do anything,” he adds. "If your dog chooses to do it, then brilliant.”
So, start your dog slowly, let her progress at her own pace, and before you know it, you might have a lifelong surfing partner.
James W. Keldsen is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and enjoys many outdoor pursuits with his dogs.
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