Crowds packed the beach, many with cell phones in hand to capture the moment – dogs riding surf boards along in the Flagler Beach waves.
Created by Flagler Beach City Commissioner Eric Cooley, heats pitted little dog against little dog, the big dogs against one another, and a tandem set, for a feel good vibe Saturday morning.
“Dog friendly beaches are few and far between in Florida,” said Cooley.
“That is one of the main reasons I moved to Flagler Beach many years ago. I have rescued 5 dogs so far and one of the things I have noticed is rescues and dog friendly programs tend to always be underfunded and not always recognized by community leaders.”
In a place as a business owner and city commissioner to garner enthusiasm, and in a pet friendly county like Flagler, it wasn’t difficult to turn out participants and supporters.
“The concept of doing a dog surf competition as a fundraiser for these groups on a dog friendly beach, in a dog friendly city that has a deep surf culture has always seemed like the perfect fit,” he said.
“I’ve been kicking around the concept for years. This year Suzie and myself decided this will be the year to start it. The main appeal is how lighthearted and family fun it is. After attending a event in St. Augustine, we learned this would be the perfect tie-in to pieces of what Flagler Beach is – a fun surf community that is dog friendly and always willing to help out the underserved in charitable ways,” shared Cooley.
Local businesses stepped up to help including Tortugas Florida Kitchen and Bar who catered the after party at the newly established Good Times Dog Bar – a private dog park that serves beer and wine while allowing dogs to play on a variety of recreational equipment, just north of Beverly Beach on A1A.
“We wanted to help out Eric Cooley and the event,” said co-owner Chris Huddleston, while Rebecca Blackowicz talked with people about the location.
Cooley’s partner, Flagler Beach Mayor Suzie Johnston, helped spot for Cooley’s dog tiny dog, an 8 pound Chihuahua Wednesday, who took the water like a pro.
“She did fantastic! These are probably the biggest waves she’s ever surfed,” exclaimed Johnston. “They’re like quadruple over her head.”
Johnston was surprised by the turnout for the inaugural event.
“I’m floored. I did not expect this many people but everyone loves dogs and it’s 100% for charity, and it’s like the entire community came together to support it,” she said.
At the end of the day of surfing dogs, costume contests and camaraderie, the day came down to the basics.
“It’s a perfect example that’s true to life is all the members of the local community helping us put this event together in order to help others. Humans and dogs together,” said Cooley.