Dogs, who will do anything to please the folks on the other end of the leash, proved it Saturday in Pacifica by jumping onto surfboards and attempting, much as humans do, not to fall off.
It was the best show in town, and it was free. Hundreds of people who had never before seen a dog ride a surfboard — along with one whale, who lingered offshore and watched from a respectful distance — showed up to witness the miracle.
“How often do you get a chance to see a dog ride a surfboard?” said spectator Toshio Hirano, which is the sort of question that answers itself.
It was billed as the second annual World Dog Surfing Championships. Linda Mar State Beach was full of people and dogs, and many of the dogs were wearing sunglasses, wetsuits, clothing and fancy hairdos, it being that sort of occasion.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t perform tricks or fancy maneuvers on a surfboard. They’re judged pretty much on how long they manage to remain on the board, and that comes down to wave selection.
And their humans are the ones who do that part. Pick too big a wave, and the dog falls off the board right away. Pick too small a wave, and the ride ends before the dog makes it to the beach. As with most things in the human-dog dynamic, the humans deserve the blame when the dog fails to do what it’s supposed to.
In the first heat, Samson the spaniel was facing off against two other dogs. On his first ride, his master, Don Horn of Orinda, set him off on a wave with too much oomph. Unable to hang 20, Samson wiped out after three seconds.
Like all great competitors, Samson brushed it off, got back on the board and rode the next wave all the way to the sand. The crowd cheered as if watching the Giants during a season besides this one.
“Arf,” said Samson.
Samson earned an impressive 9.3 on judge Sam Stahl’s scorecard.
“It’s subjective,” Stahl said, describing the challenge of dog surfing evaluation. “”It’s a feeling. You’re looking for ability to stand, ride, move in the wave. You’re looking for style. How panicked or how calm the dog is. That makes a difference.”
While Samson surfed, other dogs waited on the beach, sniffing out the competition. Derby, one of the…