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Huntington Beach surf dog Sugar wins another title

Trainer Ryan Rustan sits with Sugar the Surfing Dog on the Huntington Beach Pier on Friday.
(Matt Szabo)

Huntington Beach resident Ryan Rustan bursts with pride as he talks about his 10-year-old female surfing dog, Sugar.

He said Sugar has shot the Huntington Beach Pier — surfing slang for going between the pilings without falling off — five different times.

There is something innately cute about a dog on a surfboard, but Rustan wants the world to know that Sugar has a competitive edge. She is there to win.

“Sugar wins every time,” Rustan said. “We have three or four other organizations that we surf in as well, but she’s on a whole another gear. We surf up and down the coast.”

She did it again on July 17, putting on a show in her hometown.

Sugar won the large surf dog category in the 24th annual Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge Western Regional off Brookhurst Street. Wearing a life vest and with the help of Rustan, she rode waves during a 10-minute session.

Sugar the Surfing Dog is a 10-year-old that was rescued as a pup.
(Matt Szabo)

The canine competition will air in the Los Angeles metro area on KCAL 9 at 6 a.m. on Sept. 4, and 4 p.m. on Sept. 5.

Sugar, who has her own Instagram account and was rescued from the streets of Oakland at 7 months old, won the invitation-only Purina Pro Plan for the third straight time. All she seems to do is win. This was her 18th first-place finish in a competition overall, Rustan said.

She loves surfing at the pier and gets plenty of opportunities to do so, as Rustan lives within walking distance on 10th Street. She loves riding in his electric bike.

“But it’s bigger than here in Huntington Beach,” he said. “She’s not just a local Huntington Beach dog, but she’s a worldwide champion. We’re maxing out her dog surfing career … and she comes up with amazing stuff every time.”

Trainer Ryan Rustan and his dog Sugar walk along the Huntington Beach Pier on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Two other winners from Orange County also emerged at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge Western Regional. Gidget, an 8-year-old female pug from San Clemente, won in the small surf dog category. And Zuma, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois rescue dog from Orange, won the diving dog competition.

Gidget, who is also Instagram famous, weighs about 15 pounds. She is known for standing on all fours when surfing, which earns her plenty of style points.

“This is the dog Olympics,” said her trainer, Alecia Nelson, of winning the Purina Pro Plan. “It’s a pretty cool thing … A lot of dogs are bounced off that surfboard. I think what makes Gidget unique is that she turns, does the 360s, the 180s, and she rides backwards a lot. She’s very confident, so it’s cool to see.”

Nelson said that Gidget winning this particular title was rewarding, after two second-place and one third-place finish in the event in the past.

Gidget, with her trainer Alecia Nelson, left, is  8-year-old female pug from San Clemente.
Gidget, pictured with her trainer Alecia Nelson, left, is an 8-year-old female pug from San Clemente.
(Courtesy of Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge)

“The conditions were crazy,” Nelson said. “It was nuts. It was a washing machine, as they like to say … and for her to hang onto the surfboard and get all the way to shore in those conditions was crazy.”

Zuma’s trainer is Tyler Weinstein, who got her as a medical alert dog after battling peripheral T-cell lymphoma. He said he named her after Zuma Beach, in Malibu.

Weinstein said that Zuma’s win at the Western Regional qualified her to go to St. Louis in early October for the national final at Purina Farms. At the Western Regional, she had a jump of 29 feet, six inches on her last jump to claim first place.

She jumped off a 40-foot dock into a pool, in order to catch a toy.

“This was Zuma’s first time [competing],” Weinstein said. “She’s kind of a character … Her win was just typical Zuma. Her goal in life is to impress me and make me happy.”

Zuma, a 4-year-old rescue dog from Orange, won diving competition at  Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge.
Zuma, a 4-year-old rescue dog from Orange, won the diving competition at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge.
(Courtesy of Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge)

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