When I was a kid, just a little gremmie, I had two heroes: Greg Noll and Miki Dora.
Dora was a rebel; his poetic style unmatched. Man, could that guy surf.
Noll was “da Bull.” He had, well, so as not to be prude, let’s just say, “nerve,” but I think you know what I mean. There wasn’t a wave that guy wouldn’t ride. And this was long before tow-in surfing. This maniac paddled-out into 30-foot surf like it was nothing.
Now, here in the 21st century, I’m short on heroes. Dora’s deceased, and Noll doesn’t surf anymore.
So I went in search of a new hero…and I’m happy to say, I found one. But unlike my previous heroes, this particular surfer is a girl (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And that’s not all…this surfer is also a canine!
C’mon, let’s face it, there’s just something very cool about dogs that surf.
There’s something even cooler about a dog that surfs in competition.
But a dog that surfs in competition and raises awareness for charitable causes, well, that’s just downright BITCH’n!
Meet my new hero: Ricochet, a 2-year-old Golden Retriever, who has gone from service dog, to SURFice dog.
“I was born, and raised as part of the Puppy Prodigies Neo-Natal & Early Learning Program with hopes of becoming a service dog for a person with a disability,” Ricochet recently told me. “But, they tell me I’m a little too interested in chasing birds, and other small animals. So, my career path changed, and instead of becoming a service dog, I became a SURFice dog!”
This sudden change in career paths did not deter Ricochet. Instead, she made the most of her newfound abilities.
“As part of the Puppy Prodigies program, I was exposed to many new and exciting things in my whelping box, and then the puppy play yard,” says Ricochet. “I had lots of obstacles to maneuver over, under, around, on top of, etc including swings, wobble boards, skateboards, and many other uneven surfaces. As a result, I developed an amazing sense of balance and coordination.”
Balance and coordination, exactly what it takes to excel at surfing.
“At 8 weeks of age, in addition to my service dog task training,” she barks, “I began surf dog training on a boogie board in a kiddie pool just for fun. Most of my training from that point on was conducted at home, on dry land. In the summer of 2008, I had a few practice sessions in the calm water of Fiesta Island.”
And, as all surfers know: one wave and your hooked. Ricochet was no exception.
“In the spring of 2009, I began going out to Fiesta Island again, taking small paw steps before taking the giant leap to the rough waters of the ocean,” recalls Ricochet. “I had been in the ocean about three times when I got a last minute call to compete in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge Surf Competition on June 12, 2009. I was still quite a novice grom at 15 months old, but managed to win 3rd place in the large dog category, and was only one point off from the 2nd place winner.”
Ricochet no has more than 11,000 facebook fans. She has surfed numerous contests in 2010, repeating her 3rd place finish at this month’s Purina Incredible Dog Challenge and continues to not only raise the level of her self-confidence, but awareness and mucho dollars for her growing list of charities.
“I’ve raised thousands and thousands of dollars for charitable causes, almost $35,000 in just 10 months!” she boasts. “And I’ve inspired millions of people with my SURFice dog video, which went viral and has over 2.6 million views!”
I’m proud to admit, that I am one of those 2.6 million, and I suggest you become one (below), as well.
Gotta admit, I shed a few tears when I watched this precious pooch and her incredible journey from service dog to SURFice dog. So I called her owner, Judy Fridono, and Judy told me about a recent episode involving Ricochet and a six-year-old Californian surfer named Ian McFarland.
Ian, like Ricochet, is a surfer. He learned to surf with his father, enjoying that special son/dad relationship among the waves that only a son/dad combo can relate to.
On July 3, 2008, Ian, then five, his sister, Lauren, 2, his brother Luke, 1, and parents Tod and Stephanie McFarland, left from their home in Carlsbad, California to attend a wedding in Boulder, Colorado.
But they never made it.
The family suffered a devastating car accident that took the lives of Mr. and Mrs. McFarland. While the injuries to Lauren and Luke were slight, Ian suffered severe brain damage and was left in a coma.
Following four months in the hospital, Ian was finally discharged, but the trauma to the brain left him barely able to speak, attached to a feeding tube and bound to a wheelchair. And the rehabilitation costs are astronomical.
So enter Ricochet, who helped to raise money for the ailing Ian, mostly through that inspirational video on YouTube, yet another fine gesture by this amazing pooch that continues to raise awareness for her long list of charities.
But Ricochet and Ian were not finished. The two would meet again, with results that are–to say the least–PAW-inspiring and centered around their mutual love for the ocean and the great sport of surfing.
“The Ocean is very therapeutic for Ian,” says Ian’s Aunt Melissa. “It was in the water where Ian took his first steps after the accident, and it would be wonderful if Ricochet could help motivate him to do even more, and get back on a board. Ian loves dogs.”
It didn’t take any coaxing for Ricochet to rise for the occasion, and a surf session was arranged for May 25, 2010.
“It used to take an hour or two to coax Ian into the water,” says Melissa. “He has some fears post accident. But, on this day, because he was told that Ricochet was going to surf with him, he woke up and said ‘I WANT TO SURF TODAY’”.
And so they did. Ian returned to the place where he used to surf with his loving father…with a new friend.
And when all was said and done, Ricochet presented Ian with, not only a few kisses, but a check for $7,000 to help with rehabilitation costs.
Two friends surfing together.
And as we all know, there’s nothing quite like surfing with friends.
Ricochet, you are, indeed, my hero.