DEL MAR — Canine surfers from across San Diego County and beyond hit the waves at Del Mar Dog Beach on Sunday during the annual Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon benefitting Helen Woodward Animal Center.
The 17th annual event drew hundreds of attendees and their dogs to the beach to watch around 70 canine competitors, with the help of their owners, compete in various surfing heats based on their weight class — extra small to extra large.
Competing in 10-minute heats, dogs were judged on their ability to ride their waves and stay on the board, as well as their “fun factor.” This could include riding the board with their owner or other dogs, wearing a flashy costume or performing tricks.
Jack Rouss, owner of labrador Gus, said surfing is an activity his canine companion genuinely enjoys on his own. “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for him,” Rouss said of the Surf-A-Thon. “He loves to surf. He trained himself and as time went on, I got bigger boards so he could hold onto the board better.”
Many attendees traveled hours for the renowned event. Connie and Don Horn drove down from Stinson Beach in Marin County to participate in this year’s competition with their cocker spaniels Samson, 15, and Delilah, 13, who showed the judges a tandem ride on their surfboard.
Connie Horn said she loves the camaraderie at the event, which they have attended for the past eight years.
“We love the event, because everyone that comes, they love their dogs and love to be with their dogs and surf them. It’s a lot of commitment to help the dogs surf and compete, and everyone helps each other,” she said. “I’m not a surfer, but our dogs are, and boy I’ll tell you, we’ll get out there and let them go and Samson, he just loves the waves.”
Along with being a memorable event on its own, the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon also raises funds for the Helen Woodward Animal Center, a private nonprofit animal shelter in Rancho Santa Fe. Some participants organized fundraisers for the event, available to view on the Helen Woodward Animal Center website.
As of Sunday night, the Horns’ fundraiser “Team Samson and Delilah” had raised the most funds with just under $4,000 collected.