While the U.S. Open of Surfing drew the world's attention this summer, Lisa Scolman was a few blocks away, trying to learn to surf at least as well as her dog.
Scolman, the co-organizer of the Surf City Surf Dog competition, is hoping her 10-month-old French bulldog, Ozzie, will make enough progress on the board to enter the contest Sept. 19 at the Huntington Dog Beach. Ozzie has taken his first few lessons this summer – and so has his owner, as Scolman figured that if her pooch could learn to catch a wave, she could too.
So far, their progress has been about the same.
"I'll fall off, but I won't jump off," Scolman said Monday at the Dog Beach, where she and her husband mounted Ozzie on a longboard and let him ride a few waves to shore.
Last year, the first Surf City Surf Dog event drew about 60 canines and their owners. Scolman and her co-organizer, Jodi Book, expect an even bigger turnout this year, and they have two clinics planned for Saturday and Sept. 11 to prepare dogs and their owners for the big day.
The clinics, which last from 9 a.m. to noon, cost $15 and are free to people who have already registered for the contest. Owners and volunteers will get in the water and balance their dogs on boards, then let them go when a wave surges up.
Book, a Huntington Beach resident, said some dogs pulled it off remarkably well.
"Many of them do surf," she said. "They stay on the wave all the way to the shore. Or some of them turn around looking for their owner and jump off. So it's pretty comical."
Book and Scolman, who founded the event production company Book That Event two years ago, were inspired to start a dog surfing competition by similar events in San Diego. Proceeds from Surf City Surf Dog will go to the Dog Beach as well as Coastal German Shepherd Rescue, the Orange County Humane Society, Chase Away K9 Cancer and the Pet Rescue Center. The event will have different heats for small, medium, large and extra large dogs, as well as a dog walk and costume contest.
Scolman recommended that owners have their dogs practice balancing on a surfboard at home to prepare for being on the water. Some, though, go quite a bit further than that. Judy Fridono of San Diego, who was at the Dog Beach on Monday training her golden retriever, Ricochet, said she had groomed her as a surf dog from an early age.
Ricochet, she explained, showed remarkable balance as a puppy by standing up straight in a hammock, among other things. She's placed second and third in other surfing competitions, and Fridono is hoping for the gold Sept. 19.
"We started her when she was a puppy in a kiddie pool with a Boogie board," Fridono said. "But we didn't get her in the ocean until she was about 15 months."
If You Go
What: Surf City Surf Dog clinic
Where: Huntington Dog Beach, Pacific Coast Highway and Goldenwest Street
When: 9 a.m. Saturday and Sept. 11
Cost: $15; free to pre-registered participants in the Sept. 19 Surf City Surf Dog competition
Info: (714) 658-3426 or http://www.surfcitysurfdog.com.