Surfing Dogs Crush It at NorCal Championships in Pacifica

Abbie Girl rides triumphant on her human, Michael, at the first-ever Northern California dog surfing championships in Pacifica on September 10, 2016. (Photo: Rachael Myrow/KQED)

Dog surfing competitions are popular all over the country and beyond. But shockingly, despite the freezing water and wind chill, there’s never been one in Northern California. Not, that is, until this past weekend at the World Dog Surfing Championships in Pacifica.

Abbie Girl, the Australian Kelpie pictured above, won top honors at Linda Mar Beach. Abbie Girl's “dad” is Michael Uy.  When he's not running a tech start up called Blue Tribe in San Diego, Uy, 46, is busy managing Abbie's career.

This canine champion of the waves has her own website, of course, as well as a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And that's not all. Abbie Girl has done commercials, appeared on TV, and even had a cameo role in the 2010 movie Marmaduke. She's got sponsorships, including INT Surfboards in Carlsbad, and is a GoPro ambassador.

As is Brandy the Pug, who came in second.

Don't let her diminutive size fool you. Brandy is a monster on the waves and online. Her GoPro videos get hundreds of thousands of viewers.
Don't let her diminutive size fool you. Brandy is a monster on the waves and online. Her GoPro videos get hundreds of thousands of viewers. (Photo: Rachael Myrow/KQED)

A "tail" of two surfing dogs

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Brandy is also Abbie's "bae" (Before Anyone Else) on social media and in the water, where the two dogs ride side-by-side, and even tandem together. It's hard to overstate how chill these canines are, whether on the beach with hordes of onlookers crowding around, or in the surf, completely un-phased when their boards go flying out from under them.

Jonny Dorman, Brandy's dad, says Abbie has an easier time of it on the surfboard because she's, well, bigger than Brandy.

Not that Brandy fails to make an impression.

Brandy started in a backyard pool with boogie boards. She couldn't stay out of the water if her human family was in it.

Abbie's journey towards surfing glory, meanwhile, started in the ocean. She was a rescue dog in need of a confidence-building sport. Uy found her at Humane Society Silicon Valley 10 years ago. Then they moved to San Diego, where Uy is an open water swimmer. "I didn’t surf before my dog did; I learned after my dog," Uy says. "She used to follow me out into the water. We just put her on a surfboard to rest one day, and she stood up, which is unusual."

Nine years later, Abbie is doing the animal surfing circuit. A couple of weeks ago, she lost out to a cat and pig duo in Hawaii. Seriously.

 

Kama the Surfing Pig is also a GoPro superstar. Kitty's just starting, but she's on the verge of social media stardom.

A sport for dogs? Or snap-happy dog lovers? Or both?

All comers with a life vest and dog-sized surfboard were welcome to compete in Pacifica. But even though the event attracted hundreds of onlookers to the chilly beach on Saturday morning, only five canine surfers signed up for the challenge. Compare that to the 60 to 70 dogs that show up to compete at more established contests in Southern California and Hawaii, where the water is, like, warmer.

8uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. (Sorry, that's my cat, Owl, commenting that the obvious problem of this story is the canine focus.)

With so few competitors, all the dogs who braved the water at Saturday's event won ribbons. There's no prize purse, but the competition helps to raise money for charities including the Marin Humane Society, Muttville, and the Peninsula Humane Society.

There was no shortage of people to check out - and photograph - the five dogs and their humans willing to brave the cold waters off Linda Mar Beach.
There was no shortage of people to check out - and photograph - the five dogs and their humans willing to brave the cold waters off Linda Mar Beach. (Photo: Rachael Myrow/KQED)

Despite the small turnout of dogs, Andre Crump, co-author of the book that started this craze, The DOG'S Guide to SURFING: Hanging Ten with Man's Best Friend, hopes that the sport will take off in Northern California, as it has already done in Southern California, Hawaii, Texas, Florida and Australia. "You know, as long as we can have a fun event this first time, and bring awareness to the sport and bring awareness to the dog charities, we’ll be pretty happy," Crump says.

Although, the weather...

Temperatures hovered around 60 degrees on Saturday. Though the dogs and their humans were game, it was pretty clear the  visitors from Southern California had a hard time maintaining enthusiasm in such frigid conditions.

Nevertheless, the dogs appeared to draw energy from the crowd, which gushed and cheered the surfers on as if they were rock stars, just for managing to stay upright on their boards; or even for just for trying to.

Wes, a Yorkie/Jack Russell Terrier mix, is so new to dog surfing, the tags are still on his outfit. But with only three dogs competing in the small/medium category, he placed third.
Wes, a Yorkie/Jack Russell Terrier mix, is so new to dog surfing, the tags are still on his outfit. But with only three dogs competing in the small/medium category, he placed third. (Photo: Rachael Myrow/KQED)

Wes, a Yorkie/Jack Russell Terrier mix, won third place on his first try at dog surfing. This thrilled his owner, Christine Campopiano of Novato. "He kind of wiped out on his first attempt," Campopiano says. "And his second. And his third. And I think that was all he had. I’m really proud."

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