Surf dogs get their day

Canine competition is mostly about having fun, but the event also aids humane organizations.

October 01, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Newman, owned by Debbie Matlow and sponsored by the new HB Zoom Room, rides in a wave at Surf City Surf Dog.
Newman, owned by Debbie Matlow and sponsored by the new… (Ricka Fineman )

Brian Koerner wished he could be surfing with his dog Banana every day, but he found too few opportunities after moving to Colorado.

But when the 38-year-old Westminster native received an email about the fifth annual Surf City Surf Dog competition in Huntington Beach, he packed his board and his pup and headed west.

"This is our first competition, so we'll learn how it goes and have some fun," said Koerner, who signed up himself and his dog for the tandem competition. "Maybe we'll get serious about it one day, but it's all about fun for me."

He and Banana got some practice time in before their first heat Sunday. The 14-year-old Corgi/Jack Russell Terrier mix, sporting a tiger-themed dye job and a life jacket, barked at Koerner to get back in the water.

"I would come out here every day after work and he would run on the beach and play with the waves," Koerner said. "When I'd go surfing, he'd want to go in, so I started bringing him in. I put a life jacket on him, put him on the board and he just stands there. He's pretty much a natural."


Hundreds of people gathered at Huntington Dog Beach off Goldenwest Street and Pacific Coast Highway to see 54 dogs catch 4- to 5-foot waves and ride them back under the watchful eyes of Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguards.

A portion of the proceeds from the event went to six dog organizations, including Barks of Love, the Orange County Humane Society and the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue, said Lisa Scolman, co-founder of the event.

Scolman, an Oceanside resident, had seen dog surfing events in San Diego and decided it would be appropriate — some might say necessary — to have one in Surf City.

"It's been an uphill battle," she said. "People didn't believe and it took a while to get it off the ground. But now this year, we have surf legends judging, great new sponsors. So from our first to fifth year, I think we've finally made it. We're on the map."

A panel of judges, including surfing legend Pete Townend, were scoring the pooches on the duration of their ride and technique. Local legend Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti also made an appearance and did some emceeing between heats.

"The judges don't know these dogs. They don't follow them on Instagram," Scholman said. "They totally judge them on their surfing ability."

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