Dog Surfing 101 (A Beginners Guide To Surfing & Pooches)

dog surfing 101

Maybe you’ve just seen a French Bulldog dominating your local beachie or you’ve had the pleasure of stumbling across one of the many dog surfing competitions that happen across the globe every year.

Whatever your route to discovering the wonders of dog surfing, you’re probably scratching your head thinking about how these four-legged shredders started their surfing careers.

Fear not, we’ve taken a deep dive into the world of surfing dogs to bring you all the latest from our canine friends and their wave-riding antics.

dog surfing 101

How does dog surfing work?

Dog surfing involves pooches riding waves on any manner of surfing craft including surfboards, bodyboards and skimboards.

When it comes to surfing with your dog there are a few different ways you can approach the situation.

Solo dog surfing

solo dog surfing

This involves your dog taking to the waves without you on the surfboard. To achieve this you need to push your dog into incoming waves (this imitates the same forward motion achieved by surfers paddling to catch waves).

Once your four-legged best friend is up and riding it’s all on them to keep the board stable and balanced until the wave reaches the shore or the ride ends.

Tandem dog surfing

Now you’ll be joining your dog on the surfboard to catch some waves. As long as your board is long enough you can position your pooch at the front of the board allowing you to paddle for waves and steer the board when you’re up and riding.

Can all dogs surf?

All breeds of dogs can learn how to surf with the right tuition and a love for the water. As a general rule, any dog breed that has a history of comfort around water is a good bet for a surfing hound.

Some water-loving breeds include:

  • Labradors
  • Setters
  • New Foundlands
  • Any breed of Water Dog
  • Poodles

In many cases, it really comes down to the individual personalities of each dog. Confident dogs will fare much better with the initial challenge of standing on a surfboard and navigating breaking waves.

*It’s very important to note that not all dogs enjoy entering the ocean and you should never force your dog to do something if it’s clearly distressed.

Do dogs need special surfboards?

No, dogs can ride waves on virtually any kind of surfboard. As a general rule surfboards with more volume and float/buoyancy will be much easier for dogs to balance on both when entering the ocean initially and when catching waves.

If you intend to join your dog while surfing you’re going to need a surfboard with a bit of length like a longboard, mini mal or foamie over 9ft.

*At Honest Surf we advise using a foam surfboard like this one to reduce the risk of injury to you or your dog due to a collision or an accident.

Do dogs need any special equipment and safety gear to surf?

Yes, it’s highly recommended that all surfing dogs wear some form of dog life jacket while they’re out in the ocean. This one on Amazon is incredibly good value for money and gives you the peace of mind you want when your dogs are out surfing.

Do they run dog surfing competitions?

Yes, dog surfing competitions are popular the world over with hounds taking to the waves while judges score them on different pre-determined criteria.

The main judging criteria for dog surfing are:

Technique – Dogs are awarded substantially if they complete the whole ride on all fours with points deducted for sitting or lying on the surfboard.

Length of the ride – How long a dog can stay riding a wave and whether they can successfully reach the shoreline by the end of the ride.

Size and quality of wave – Dogs will be rewarded for catching and surfing larger or more powerful waves.

Confidence and technique – Arguably a bit more undefined but necessary judging criteria never the less.

Alongside judging criteria many canine surfing competitions employ weight categories to try and keep things as fair as possible.

A brief history of dog surfing

We can trace dog surfing as far back as the 1920s in California and Hawaii but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the silent film On The Waves in Waikiki showed scenes of the terrier Night Hawk surfing alongside his owner Phillip K. Auna.

Night Hawk was quite the pro, being able to effectively hang ten (put both feet right at the front of the surfboard).

Next came Rusty who stormed to fame with a full page spread in Nat Geo. Since then the sight of surfing dogs has become more and more common with no signs of this slightly odd pursuit slowing down in popularity.

Common questions about dog surfing

We answer the internet’s most pressing questions about surfing pooches.

Do dogs enjoy surfing?

Surfing is by no means a natural activity for dogs so to expect them to enjoy it immediately is unrealistic. The easiest way to see if you’re dog may enjoy surfing is to visit the beach when a small swell is running.

Any dog that is comfortable playing in and around the surf is a potential candidate for dog surfing if they enjoy being on and around a surfboard.

Who invented dog surfing competitions?

The idea was initially put forward in 2004 by the author of ‘The Dog’s Guide to Surfing’, K.Reed.

Reed approached the Loews Coronado hotel in San Diego to host and sponsor the event and thus, dog surfing was born.

Is dog surfing a sport?

The Oxford Dictionary defines sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment“.

Based on this definition surfing alongside your dog would undoubtedly be considered a sport.

How big should the waves be for dog surfing?

Initially, you’re going to want to aim for waves no higher than your knee to allow your pooch to get comfortable balancing on their board and riding waves.

As their confidence increase, you can start to increase the size of the wave surfed until it’s clearly unsafe for you and your four-legged best friend to surf.