MIND & BODY
Above all, you and your human need to be in shape. Being fit gives you better balance on the board for going out as well as riding back in. And, it’ll save your tail when you have to paddle back to the board after a wipe out. Dad and I run and mountain bike over 120 miles a month. On weekends we do long hikes up to 10 miles in the mountains, and often go to the beach to swim, not surf. And then we also go jogging on the beach. You don't have to be this extreme, but if you (or your human) have a bit of a biscuit butt, get into a little shape before you try surfing. That way you'll have more fun and be safe.
If you’re new to this, make sure you learn to have fun in the waves first. Read: NO board! Swimming in the ocean taught me one very important thing: how to hold my breath. I know you’re thinking that dogs can’t do that, but we can! It just takes practice.
Once you’re OK with the water, getting used to the board is a snap. It’s a little wobbly, but if your human lets you practice getting on and off in shallow water first, you’ll get the hang of it. Now, some humans will train you to "like" the board - don't fall for it. Just understand that the board is a way for you to be with your human in the water. Sometimes Dad and I just swim around together on the board, no surfing. It's just how we hang in the water.
The most important piece of equipment is your DFD, or “dog floatation device.” When you wipe out, you go under and may get disoriented by a wave. A DFD will save your life. It will give you more confidence in the water, too, especially if you’ll be out for a while. Dad makes me wear one when we go on long swims, so I get used to doggy paddling in it.
The two brands that I like are Ruffwear and Outward Hound. My favorite is the Outward Hound because the chest support is a wide velcro band, unlike the two thin straps on the Ruffwear, so it doesn’t hurt when Dad picks me up by the handle on the top of the DFD.
Get a softboard – not a fiberglas or wood board with grip tape – a real softboard. The reason is to protect your head! A hard board can crack your skull if you go tumbling with it in a wipeout. The best starter boards are the Waveriders available from Costco in 6 and 8 foot sizes. INT makes aweome softboards for dog (and human) surfing if they fit you, and they’re pricey. You can easily spend over $300 for one. They’re competition grade, and one sweet ride!
Some of you have humans who might buy a used board. That’s OK, but make sure your human doesn’t choose a “soggy” one. Soggy boards have broken stringers, and flex a lot. This makes them sluggish, and almost impossible to maneuver. They only work in strong waves, which also makes them hard for beginners.