A very brief and off-the-cuff history of surfing animals
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 14 March, 2016 - Humans can be a very vain species. We think we are the only animals who can do certain things and if we are not then at least we are better than everyone else. Surfing is no exception. Though it has been part of Human history for millennia since ancient Polynesia, not only have animals been doing it before us without the need for boards, but they have also adapted with their own boards and competitions in recent years too!
Animals have never been afraid of the water, even the ones who aren’t supposed to be in it! In the Bahamas there are pigs brought by colonists who left them behind on a small island. Over the years the pigs have bred and have not only learnt to swim, but seem to enjoy it. World famous race horse Red Rum even used to train by running through the sea and bathed in it before big races! But it’s come to our attention it is not just swimming that animals like to do. Sometimes they just want to catch waves like the rest of us.
Dogs have always been man’s best friend, and if the man wants to go surfing, then Rover will follow. Earliest records of dogs surfing were in the 1920’s. In Australia, Queensland recently, a competition was held. This was not any ordinary competition but a surfing comp of the four legged kind. It has moved on since the times of forcing your dog on to a giant wooden log however. The competition on the sunshine coast is called ‘The Dog Spectacular’ and features dogs on their own boards being pushed into surf and then being judged on their style. Crowds flock the seas edge and applaud each dog as they come.
It is not just dogs who are especially skilled. In Peru there is one of the more unusual creatures to barrel, an alpaca! Pisco, an Alpaca from Lima often stands side by side Peruvian surfer Domingo Pianezzi. Domingo has spent years training dogs to surf and his latest conquest is his most impressive. Watching the Alpaca gangly legs stabilise will put your own balance to shame. Of course Alpacas are not natural swimmers, so Pisco always wears a flotation jacket.
Surfing is not just a tamed animal game, long before Humans even thought of surfing there were plenty of animals experiencing it. The most prominent surfer in the wild is the Dolphin. Not only can you find one dolphin surfing, but often hundreds at a time. It is thought that they use the waves as a speedier less tiring form of swimming and gain an extra boost. Dolphins have a very developed social system so it is thought that they are also playing and enjoying the waves just like humans do.
It has not been proven but Scientists from the University of Cambridge said dolphins have been documented riding waves created by the bows of boats since ancient Greece. 'They've been doing it for ages and it’s the kind of thing that we don't actually know for sure why they do it.'
The experts think the move gives the animals a 'power boost,' but reports of dolphins riding waves to shore, or racing in front of boats for hours, suggests that there is little energetic benefit to them, so they might just enjoy it. Crocodiles have also been pictured enjoying the waves too out of Margaret River near Perth. The silhouette of a Croc in the wave is chilling, but also breath-taking.
While us mere Humans like to think we are the only ones who do certain things like driving cars, sailing, flying or playing sports let’s make sure we don’t put surfing on that list, because there are many animals out there who can catch a wave and in the case of the Dolphins they might even be better at it than us.