SAN DIEGO — Cowa-Barka! Dogs are gearing up for Helen Woodward Animal Center’s 18th Annual Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon next month, including a smiley three-legged pup who’s just learning how to shred the waves.
Clancy, a four-year-old beagle and lab mix, has been learning how to surf in classes hosted by the shelter for beach-loving pooches at the Del Mar Dog Beach in preparation of their big event.
A video of Clancy on a board can be viewed in the player above.
While the sport for furry pals has existed since the 1920s, dog surfing has skyrocketed in popularity over the last two decades. However, it mostly existed in the realm of entertainment.
According to Helen Woodward, by adding the novel element of a competition with their annual fundraiser, the Surf-A-Thon catapulted the sport into a global phenomenon.
Of course, though, surfing dogs aren’t born with an innate ability to hang ten and most owners don’t teach their fur-babies to do so on their own.
Since 2013, Helen Woodward has hosted classes to help their Surf-A-Thon competitors learn how to shred waves. This year, the lessons are put on in partnership with SoCal Surf Dogs.
Instructors start the new “surFURs” on the beach with safety training, according to the shelter, readying them with floatation devices and other protective equipment.
Then, the lessons move onto teaching the pups how to stand on their boards, before they are taken into shallow waters where they get the chance to learn how to balance and float before getting to ride the waves with the assistance of Dog Surfing professionals.
“These lessons are a great way to bond with your dog, raise funds for orphan pets and find out if you want to compete with your pup in the September competition,” Jessica Gercke, PR Director of Helen Woodward Animal Center said. “By the end of his first lesson, my dog Wilson could ride a wave on his own and I was definitely the proudest mom on the beach.”
Clancy is one of the pooches in this year’s cohort of new wave riders.
“He acts just like a four legged dog,” said Clancy’s owner, Matt Fisette. “We decided let’s just throw him on a board and see what happens. We did that (about) two weeks ago and he was a natural.”
Clancy had his leg amputated after a car crash, his owner said. When he was rescued, he was placed in a shelter where he was put on medical hold due to issues with the amputation that was done and a positive test for heartworms.
After he ended up at Helen Woodward, he was placed in the care of the Fisette and his partner as a foster about two years ago. They later adopted him after his medical hold was lifted.
“Even though he is missing a leg, he has the ability to do anything a dog can do,” Kristine Fisette said. “I love it when people see him doing that … it makes me proud.”
Dog Surfing lessons start at $50 per session for each “surFUR.” All proceeds support the pets and proceeds at Helen Woodward. Fur parents can sign their dogs up for a space online.
The Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon is set to take place Sunday, Sept. 10 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Del Mar Dog Beach.