Dogs, owners prep for surf event <img src=””>


By Jonathan Horn


The waves at Del Mar’s dog beach will be pretty ruff over the next month as more than 100 canines and their owners pair up for the fourth annual San Diego Surf-A-Thon.

The actual competition does not begin until Sept. 13, but the Helen Woodward Animal Center, which will earn proceeds from the event, is putting on training clinics beginning Aug. 8.

While the surf competition is limited to the first 120 dogs to register, the instructional days are meant to teach owners and test the willingness of their dogs.

“Dogs wear their personalities on their sleeves,” said Rob Kuty, owner of San Diego Pet Training, who will help with the clinics. “You can kind of tell the difference between the dog liking water and not liking water.”

The dogs that are up for paddling out will be trained on foam boards designed by pro surfer Rob Takayama, who will also work the clinics. Dogs can use their paws to get a steady grip on the surfboard, as their owners gradually take them to waste-deep waters.

“We take that board to the edge of the water, they feel a little bit of unbalance, and once they get acclimated to that, we start to take them out,” Kuty said. “They get knocked over, so we just suggest we put life jackets on their dogs.”

Come September, organizers plan to welcome contestants from around the world, some from as far away as Japan.

“We think of it as this is a great family event,” said Helen Woodward spokeswoman Trisha St. George. “How better to spell out Southern California than the beach, families and their dogs. It’s just so exciting.”

Additionally, they are preparing for a barrage of international media, more than they can keep count of.

“It was everywhere,” St. George said of last year’s coverage. “And then we tried to track down the different Web sites and we were in China, Japan, Russia, England.”

There will be two clinics at 9 and 10 a.m. the next three Saturdays, limited to 25 dogs at a cost of $45 each. Only one dog per human is allowed at the clinic.

“We just kind of walk everyone through some basic steps on getting the people and the dog comfortable,” Kuty said. “You want to make sure your dog is into it so it will be a fun experience for you and the dog.”