DEL MAR – Dog Beach lived up to its name on Sunday when thousands of canine athletes, spectator dogs, owners, celebrities and the media from around the world converged on the sand for the Sixth Annual Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon presented by Eukanuba. This was the largest surf dog competition in the nation.
More than $100,000 was raised for homeless pets and programs of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe.
“I had no idea when we came up with this idea six years ago that it would grow to this size,” said Mike Arms, president, Helen Woodward. “Where else can you have this but in Southern California?”
Arms explained that while the event draws visitors from around the world, his dream is that international guests will also begin to travel with their dogs to San Diego for the competition.
“But we think American dogs are the best surfers in the world,” he added. “It’s all about people and their pets.”
The day began with a tribute to service dogs, featuring police and surf and rescue dogs, followed by surfing heats in four weight classes. The competition was judged by world champion tandem surfer Guy Takayama, Alex Gray from Volcom, Mike Emerson and Pat McGriff from the Swami’s Surfing Association and pro surfers Sunshine Makrow and Kristy Murphy.
Surfers raised money by first deciding whether they wanted to surf with their pooch in the surf dog heat, or in a team for Doo the Dah, a dog-human surfing costume contest. Then they pledged to catch a set number of waves, in a 15-minute period, and solicit friends and neighbors for financial support.
Mike Munoz and Mark Munoz from CBS’s “Amazing Race” judged Doo the Dah. Other celebrity judges included Tyana Alvarado from NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Craig Silke from ABC’s “The Mole, Dennis Luciani from NBC’s “Average Joe” and Gillian Larson from CBS’s “Survivor.”
Husband and wife DJs Jagger & Kristi, from Magic Mornings on 92.5FM, emceed the “Beach Bum and Bikini Babe Canine Costume Contest.” They brought their Australian shepherd, Bodie, who is a regular at Dog Beach.
“We come down the path, release the leash, and say ‘sit,’ Kristi explained. “Then he takes off and heads for the beach.”
Jagger added, “I take him out and he’s better than me.”
Eighty dogs competed but only one was named “top dog” – Surf Dog Buddy from Ventura. Buddy, who has won five of the six Surf Dog Surf-A-Thons, also became the first inductee into the Surf Dog Hall of Fame during the event. He won a “Best in Surf” trophy, a year’s supply of Eukanuba pet food and Tagg, the Pet Tracker (GPS system for pets) for his first place finish.
Bruce Hooker, Buddy’s owner, spoke during the Hall of Fame ceremony stating that it was most likely the last race for the 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier. “That last heat was probably the best of Buddy’s life,” said Hooker, adding, “Helen Woodward Animal Center hosts the best Surf Dog Competition and we are so proud to be represented.”
Other standout surf dogs included second place finisher, Nani, and third place finisher, Dozer, both from San Diego. Each dog took home trophies and gift baskets full of toys and treats.
Nani’s owner, Peter Noll, is also the founder of Southern California Surf Dogs, which promotes the sport.
“We kept running into people who were dog lovers at these competitions who would say, ‘We need to teach our dog how to surf,’ so we started organizing them,” he explained.
“We teach them how to surf safely with their dog, and we also do what we can to help these charities and help dogs.”
Surf Dog Ricochet was also honored as the top fundraiser for this year’s Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, raising more than $6,000 for Helen Woodward. The center also received a $6,500 donation from Snap Tracks, makers of Tagg, which was one of 70 vendors participating in the event.
The competition, originally set for Sept. 11, was rescheduled to Sept. 25 following a major power outage and sewage spill.
Dog owners interested in training their pooches for next year’s competition can do so by participating in surf clinics held at Dog Beach by Helen Woodward beginning next spring. For more information, visit animalcenter.org or call (858) 756-4117.