FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. – It’s the kind of publicity that money can’t buy and on Saturday there was plenty of it to go around.
Staging the second annual Hang 8 Dog Surfing Extravaganza in Flagler Beach, TV news crews hit the beach to get the scoop on surfing dogs and their owners.
Receiving calls and messages from friends as far away as Chicago and Canada, Flagler Beach Mayor Suzie Johnston and Flagler Beach City Commissioner Eric Cooley, co-organizers of the contest, said the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of interest in the event.
“We were live in New York today. They were taping us and people were watching us in New York, live on Fox News. They interviewed me, I got back to my truck and all my college roommates in Chicago saw I was on national news. We’ve been on national news all day,” said Johnston.
“Really it’s the novelty of what it is,” said Cooley. “You got surfing dogs, you never get to see that, you know it’s one of those feel-good events. There are a lot of events that are vendor driven, theme driven, but this is just fun and feel good, and that’s it.”
Johnston said the combination of surf community and dog-friendly beaches helped make it a winner.
“We have lots of coastline and beach, and we’re a surf community, so that’s really what makes this event very special. We’re a surf community and a dog community, so it’s a great way to bring the two together,” she said.
Working on the event as a two-man show, Johnston tackles the graphics and Instagram while Cooley pushes out the Facebook messaging. Together they’ve got it down to a science, and with the support of Flagler’s tourism office, this year’s promotion was huge.
“There’s so much grassroots marketing. She’ll be doing the graphics and the printing and I’ll be doing the social media. We just divvy it up,” said Cooley.
Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches’ tourism director Amy Lukasik staffed the welcome tent and kissing booth for canines and their owners, and noted that it’s the unique events Flagler County has to offer that attract the most attention.
“When you really think about some of the more popular characteristics that Flagler Beach is known for, awesome surfing, friendly and a little quirky along with having pet-friendly beaches, that’s the Hang 8 event all tied together,” she said.
“The event definitely has a lot of opportunity and it’s good to see this type of event in our community.”
And The Winner Is …
Taking home two big wins in the contest, the Lamb family had more than one thing to celebrate on Saturday.
“We don’t have a dog surf contest in Jax Beach and it’s a great opportunity for her to get to spend time with the dogs and to do something as a family. It’s actually our 17th wedding anniversary and we’re here dog surfing,” said mom, Adeline Lamb.
“Charlie Brown just went surfing on Thursday for his first time ever,” she said of the best wave winner.
“Last year his sister Maui was second place. (Finley) took him out and the waves were really rough this morning but he not only rode the wave all the way to the beach, but two lifeguards went to grab him and he jumped, did a flip and landed past the lifeguards, causing two lifeguards to fall into the waves and that’s why he won best wave.”
13-year-old Finley Lamb is a surf instructor for Saltwater Cowgirls in Jax Beach and trained both Charlie Brown and Mohawk Maui to surf, along with her little sister Ellis.
“I went out with both. With Charlie Brown he likes to grip his claws into the board and I had to paddle with him, and he did not want to move,” explained Finley. “With Mohawk Maui, she likes to do it herself because she’s so good at it, but Charlie got a perfect 10 because he flipped on the board.”
“It’s very exciting. (I’m) very proud. Maui’s my baby, Charlie’s her kid, my little sister’s.”
“I’m proud really because this is only his second time surfing. I got first place for large dog,” chimed in Ellis Lamb.
The Real Winners
While there was plenty of fun to go around, with judges, big waves, a costume contest and dogs paddling out with their owners and relaxing after party at Good Times Dog Bar, the real winners are the local charitable organizations who will receive donations from the event.
“The beneficiaries of today’s event are K9s for Warriors, S.M.A.R.T. Pet Rescue and the Flagler Humane Society. These are three top-tier charity organizations and to bring a lot of recognition to them on a family-fun oriented day is really what’s so special,” said Johnston.
Growing from a few hundred people last year to national recognition, Cooley said they had no idea the event would grow so quickly and become so popular.
“We had no idea it was going to be like this,” shared Cooley. “We printed five times the amount of t-shirts we did last year and sold out in two hours. It’s all about a good day at the beach with the dogs and family.”