By Katya Cengel
A California surfer buys a goat to clear his family’s property of weeds and ends up teaching it to catch waves.
If it sounds like a children’s story or a funny YouTube video, it’s both.
Dana McGregor, of Pismo Beach, California, and his surfing female goat Goatee have gained notoriety on YouTube with spoof videos including “Goatbusters” and “Goatee & Me.” McGregor wrote about their hijinks in the forthcoming children’s book, The Surfing Goat, Goatee.
It all started in 2011, when Goatee wouldn’t stop following McGregor around. So McGregor, a surfing and standup paddleboard instructor, started bringing her with him—in the car, on the street, in a trailer pulled behind a bike.
This being California’s central coast, and McGregor being a surfer, the beach was the next place he took Goatee, and before long he had her on a surfboard. (See “Inside the Curl: Surfing’s Surprising History.”)
“Goats are actually phenomenal swimmers; I don’t think people know that,” said McGregor.
Of course, domestic animals aren’t the only surfers in nature: Some wild animals, such as hippos, crocodiles, ducks, and dolphins are natural wave riders. (See “Crocodiles Body Surf to Hop Between Islands.”)
McGregor has also taught two additional goats, Grover and Pismo (both named after California beaches) to surf, and he’d like to expand to other animals: “I’d love to take a donkey surfing… It’d have to be a miniature one,” he said.
Despite the humor and wackiness of surfing goats, McGregor has a serious side: He’s using his limited fame to raise money to send goats to children in Haiti and villagers in Mozambique, where they’ll provide much-needed milk and thus nutrition.
McGregor’s not the only one to make his pet a surfing star: Read on to learn about a pig, dogs, a cat, rats, and even an alpaca that have learned to hang ten.
Kama the pig seems more of a natural in the water than on land—maybe because he’s Hawaiian. The story goes that as a piglet, Kama fell into a pool and showed such swimming prowess that his owner, Kai Holt, decided to teach him to surf.
They surf as a pair: Holt paddles out and stands on the back of a standup paddleboard, while Kama digs his hooves into the front. When the waves are too small for his liking, Kama jumps off the board and swims alongside. (See surfing photos submitted to National Geographic.)
Like many top athletes, Kama has sponsors, including Jamie DeMatoff of Aloha Sub Deli and Sandwich Shop. The Honolulu deli named a vegetarian sub after Kama, who is more vegan than vegetarian—a diet that, combined with his surfing, keeps him lean.
Being man’s best friend has given canines a leg up when it comes to surfing: A sport called “surf dog” formally originated in San Diego, California, in 2006. It’s also gone global: There’s a surf dog contest in France, for instance.
But dogs have been joining their owners on boards for decades—so long that the Surf City Surf Dog competition, held September 26 to 28 in Huntington Beach, California, will feature a history exhibit on the phenomenon.A dog rides a wave while competing during the fifth annual Surf Dog competition at Huntington Beach, California, on September 29, 2013. Photograph by Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty
“We have some pictures of surfers back in the [1920s] and ’30s in Waikiki surfing with their dogs,” said competition cofounder Lisa Scolman.
While there has been the occasional standout mutt, English bulldogs tend to do best because of their low center of gravity, she added. (Watch video: “Working Dogs.”)
“Pets in general, and dogs, are just becoming so much more a part of everyone’s families and lives,” said Scolman.
“And so people like to take them to do activities, whatever they happen to enjoy—and surfing is one of those things.”
Cat … and an Alpaca
Peruvian Domingo Pianezzi, who started teaching kids to surf, also took on some furrier students: dogs, a cat, and even an alpaca.
The cat, Nicolasa, caused a splash online back in 2008 when, as a kitten, she allegedly got lessons after leaping on a surfboard. Although Nicolasa looks terrified in photos, Pianezzi insisted in media accounts that the tortoiseshell kitten was having fun.
Two years later Pianezzi made waves again by bringing an alpaca on board.
According to news accounts, Pianezzi thought it would be cool to teach the mountain animal how to navigate waves. (In pictures, Pisco, named after the South American grape brandy, looks like he could use a drink.)
Rats are used to being science’s guinea pigs, so why not test them in other ways? Or so may have been the thinking behind teaching Tofu and Fin to surf. In 2008, the two rats caught Hawaiian waves on custom-made surfboards.
Their owner, Boomer Hodel, then 14, was a tough coach, keeping the rodents on a high-protein, low-carb diet. The lessons began after Hodel took them to the beach to give them a bath and discovered how much they liked swimming.
Tofu and Fin have since passed on, but their surfboards were used by at least one more generation of rats, according to the photographer who caught them in action.
Tell us: What surfing animals have you seen?
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