During weekends at dog beaches, Noll must factor in the size and ability of water-loving dogs who are giving canine surfing a try. He must guide each dog safely in the surf and time the release of the board to catch the perfect wave so that the dog can glide to shore. His gratification comes when he sees them eager to get back on the surfboard for another ride.
Meet Peter Noll: accomplished architect and talented canine surf teacher. He fell in love with surfing in 1963 when his family relocated from Massachusetts to San Diego. He fell in love with surfing all over again four years ago when Nani, his Bernese Mountain Dog, joined him in the ocean, sat on the surfboard and coasted all the way into shore on her first attempt. On the second wave, Nani boldly stood up and rode it until the nose of the board kissed the shore.
Neither one has looked back ever since. Nani’s love of surfing inspired Noll to rally others with surf-loving canines to create the So Cal Surf Dogs in 2009. The original members, answering to the names of Antonio, Dozer, Guido, Kalani, King, Kong, Nani, Ricochet, Stanley and Toby, have been celebrated on billboards, calendars and been viewed by millions all over the world on videos and television newscasts. Many were part of the four-legged pack to set not one, but three Guinness World Records for most dogs on a surfboard (17), most dogs with a surfer (8) and most dogs with a two-person tandem (8) at Imperial Beach on June 16.
Noll appreciates these achievements, but revels in the group’s role in helping to raise thousands of dollars for various pet and people charities. He also delights in building confidence and skills in the dozens of four-legged surf rookies he teaches at various dog beaches in San Diego County.
“Back when it was just me surfing, I always viewed it as a quiet, spiritual time,” says Noll. “But now, surfing is something wonderful you can do with your dog. Surfing builds trust and strengthens the bond with your dog. And besides, it’s great exercise for the both of you.”
As much as Nani and Noll live for surfing, Noll’s other Bernese Mountain Dog, Kiki, is more of a land lover. And that’s fine with Noll and his wife, Gabi.
“If a dog isn’t interested in surfing, don’t force him,” says Noll. “I tried to get Kiki on the surfboard and she jumped right off. Gabi and I jokingly refer to Kiki as our beach cheerleader. She prefers greeting Nani and I when we come back to shore. And that’s okay with us.”
Look for Noll and the So Cal Surf Dog bunch at the Surf Dog Surf-a-Thon on Sept. 9 at the Del Mar Dog Beach to benefit the Helen Woodward Animal Center. Noll will once again take on the dual roles of competitor and teacher.
Craig Haverstock, whose Chesapeake Bay retriever named Stanley is one of the original So Cal Surf Dogs, best describes Noll by saying, “Canine surfing is a sport that you can be as competitive as you want to make it, but Peter keeps it fun for everyone – the dogs and the people.”
To learn more about Noll and the So Cal Surf Dogs, please visit www.socalsurfdogs.com.
Water Safety Tips
If your dog likes to make a splash in the ocean or swim in a pool, heed these safety tips:
Accessorize your dog for safety. Fit him with a canine life jacket with a handle on top.
Teach your dog how to enter and exit a pool. Start with water play in the shallow end to teach him that this is his “safety spot” to get out of the pool. Invest in floatable doggy ramps or stairs.
Keep them healthy. Ensure your dog is current on all necessary vaccinations to protect against parasites and giardia, and always rinse him thoroughly with clean water after swimming.
Know when enough is enough. End the water workout before your dog becomes overtired and prone to injury.