Hang 8 Dog Surfing Competition planned for Flagler Beach

The event will be held from 8 a.m. to about 2 p.m. on May 21 at the Fifth Street South Dune Walkover Beach.

Commissioner Eric Cooley helps his dog, Wednesday, ride a wave. Photo from the Hang 8 Facebook page
Commissioner Eric Cooley helps his dog, Wednesday, ride a wave. Photo from the Hang 8 Facebook page
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Flagler Beach's newest surfing contest promises tail-wagging fun: The Flagler Beach City Commission on March 24 OK'd the city's first Hang 8 Dog Surfing Competition.

"It's wholesome, it's lighthearted, it's everything you would want."


— ERIC COOLEY, city commissioner

The competition, to be held from 8 a.m. to about 2 p.m. on May 21 at the Fifth Street South Dune Walkover Beach, will benefit animal rescue organizations.

City Commissioner Eric Cooley brought the proposal before the commission at a March 24 meeting. The best surfing area is in a stretch of beach that doesn't usually allow dogs, so holding the event there requires the commission's approval to waive the no-dog rule. 

The commission granted it unanimously, with Cooley abstaining from the vote because he's organizing the event.

Cooley said he'd heard about such competitions in other parts of the state.

"I came across this ridiculous concept that people are doing, mostly on the West Coast, of surfing with their dogs," he said. "And then, in addition to surfing with the dogs, they're actually letting the dogs do the surfing, and it's catching on."

Then Cooley saw a competition at the Guy Harvey Resort in St. Augustine, where one is held each fall

"It was it was surprising. It was ridiculous. But then it was it was also amazing, because you're you're bringing in families, it's wholesome, it's lighthearted, it's everything you would want," Cooley said. "Just to give you an idea, they have a dog kissing booth — which we're going to do."

Commissioners and audience members laughed.

"Yeah. It wasn't very popular, but it did get used," Cooley said. 

There was also a dog costume contest, and an exhibition of other forms of canine skill. 

"A lot of the dogs that show up for these are multitalented dogs," Cooley said. "There are frisbee dogs, there are showmanship dogs."

Commission Chairman Ken Bryan said Cooley seems to have the event worked out. 

But, Bryan added, "I'm gonna bring my cat in, Max, and smoke all those dogs!"

Dogs will be required to be up on their vaccinations and friendly with other dogs and with people, Cooley said. They'll be leashed when not competing.

Cooley said that the Fifth Street location was chosen because the wave action in that area is reasonable, and the slope of the beach is gradual. 

"We need to have little baby waves for little baby dogs," he said. 

There will be spotters all along the beach where the dogs are surfing, he said, since the dogs’ humans won’t necessarily be right beside them — some dogs can pull their own boards out.

"They tie a tennis ball with a string to the end of the board, the dog grabs it and goes out and gets on it himself, and the owners don't do anything," Cooley said.

Commissioner Jane Mealy asked if the city could notify people about the event ahead of time, so that people who usually use that part of the beach but aren't comfortable with dogs don't arrive and find themselves surprised by a beach full of wave-riding canines. 

"I think we should let people know," she said. "Some kind of a sign or something."

Mayor Suzie Johnston said notices could be posted to the city website and city-affiliated Facebook pages, and signs could be placed on the beach. 

The dog surfing discussion fell late in the commission meeting, and only one member of the public addressed the commission about it during the public comment period before the vote. 

"C'mon, it's surfing dogs! It's half a block, half a day," resident Anthony Cinelli said.  "I think we can do this. Surfing dogs! How cool is that?" 

Cooley said that one of the reasons he'd moved to Flagler Beach was that the city is so dog-friendly. 

"There's only so many dog-friendly beaches in Florida, and it's a big draw," Cooley said. "And it it drives tourism and drives a lot of people here. It's a novelty, and it works really good. It's part of our character and part of our charm."



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