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The Dog Masters Festival is the UK’s only surfing competition for dogs. First run in 2018, the festival has been getting bigger and bigger.
Mark, who also runs Shaka Surf school in Poole, told Express.co.uk how he got the idea to start the festival.
He said: “We’re based at Branksome Dene Chine in Dorset and the beaches are just amazing here.
“It’s a beautiful beach with beautiful surroundings. And it’s a dog friendly beach of course.
“We’re actually one of the only dog friendly beaches in the UK that allows dogs on the beach all year round.
“As well as being a surf school we also hire out paddleboards to visitors. And we got a lot of people asking ‘can we put dogs on the boards?’
“And the question was being asked more and more. So we tried it and it was a bit of a laugh and then we thought of the festival.
“At the first Dog Masters, a couple of hundred people turned up and the local radio station came with a DJ.
“Second year, it got a little bit bigger, then in 2021 we turned it into a festival and people just went mad for it.”
The festival and competing dogs went viral on social media in 2021 and this year Mark said Dog Masters is “getting even bigger”.
He said: “We’ve got a night festival which is like a music festival with dancing from four until 10pm.”
The competition will also have food stalls, a market, dancing and commentary from local radio hosts.
Mark said: “The dogs will compete at surfing and if we haven’t got any waves, it’s dog racing on paddleboards with the owners in fancy dress. It’s hilarious.”
Teaching a dog to surf can be a challenge and most of the dogs take part in a training programme to prepare for the big day.
Mark said: “We train the dogs every Sunday for a couple of months before. The dogs have to be completely happy in the water.
“We’ve got a dog behaviourist and a dog trainer that comes every Sunday and teaches the dogs to be stress free.”
Mark said any dog that panics or appears frightened at the competition will be disqualified from racing.
He said: “They can’t be frightened at all on a board. They’re trained to be confident in the water and to improve their flexibility and movement.”
There’s expected to be stiff competition this year and Mark expects around 25-30 dogs to take part.
Bear the beagle has won the competition for the last three years, but this year could see a new champion.
Mark said: “We’ve had good little dogs in the past. Especially if they have little dog syndrome.”
Tickets for the Dog Masters Festival cost £14 for adults and £5 for children and the competition will be held on July 23 in 2022 and are available to purchase here.
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