What is Dog Surfing?

Dog surfing is a cool new way to spend time with your human. This radical dog sport is starting to boom, both recreationally and competitively, and what makes it different from all other dog sports is that both you and your human must absolutely do together as a team. The more you trust your two-footed friend, the better you’ll ride! Now, it’s a good idea in the first place that both of you be good open water swimmers, especially if you’re planning to ride big waves. Wipeouts do happen, and doggie paddling isn’t always enough when the surf gets ruff!


The basics of dog surfing are easy. You get on the board. Your human takes you out, sets you up on a wave and you ride it in. What could be simpler?

Your human’s job is an important one – going through breaking waves while balancing a several pounds of SurFur on a board can be challenging. The job of the human Canine Propulsion Unit (CPU) will remain an important one! No other dog sport requires as much teamwork from you and your human.

While recreational dog surfing has been around for a few years, only recently has competitive surfing gained popularity. Competitive dog surfing, while not for everyone, has been responsible for developing techniques and equipment that are making this new sport safer, more fun, and more accessible by everyone, especially recreational SurFurs.


Dogs have been sharing boards with humans for years now, but only recently have we been surfing on our own! Dog surfing started as a local, recreational phenomenon in Southern California, and quickly became so popular that competitions were started.

The first dog surfing contests started in 2005 in San Diego as fund raisers for pet charities. The events at Imperial Beach and Del Mar Beach still continue to this day. However, in 2009 the sport was catapulted to national attention by Purina, who added a dog surfing event to their West Coast Incredible Dog Challenge. The event was broadcast nationally on ESPN.

That same year, two more new dog surfing contests started, outside of San Diego in Huntington Beach, Surf City USA. In fact, in 2009, the number of dog surfing contests in California jumped from two to five! Attention peaked to the point where 20th Century Fox included a dog surfing scene in the 2010 movie “Marmaduke” that was filming that year. Six surfing dogs, including Abbie G, from the San Diego circuit were featured as extras in the scene.

All this excitement around the sport prompted the creation of the San Diego Dog Surfing Association by my dad. It was initially a meet-up club, but grew to include anyone interested in dog surfing at any level. As more clubs began to form independently and embrace surfing on their own, we kept the association name exclusively to promote me.

The popularity of the sport in such a short time has been surprising. By the last competition of the year, the Helen Woodward Dog Surf-A-Thon, nearly 3,000 humans attended, and about over 150 dogs competed. Bow-wow-bunga!


Tandem riding is a new event.

Credit: © 2009 Diane Edmonds

© 2009 Jake Gonen Photography