Riding the waves with Ventura’s Surfing Ambassadog, Haole Boy

Haole Boy shares a wave with athlete Jacob, during a recent AWOW event in Huntington Beach. Photo by Lynn Beeler

by Amy Brown

They say every dog has its day, and there was one day in particular that was pivotal for local pup Haole Boy, and his owners Kim and John Murphy. Haole was almost five years old and was at Mondos Beach watching John surfing, when suddenly Haole tried to get up on the board with him. The next day they brought a stand-up paddle board and Haole got right up on it and surfed like he’d been standing on a board his whole life, according to his owners.  “We didn’t even have to teach Haole Boy to surf,” says Kim. “It was amazing, we didn’t have to coach or coerce him, he was not timid or nervous, but totally comfortable. We laugh because we say he must have been a surfer in a past life.”

Haole has been wowing surfers and beach goers at local breaks like C Street and the Cove with his soul surfer stylings on 3-4 foot waves ever since, and has since been named Ventura’s official Ambassadog. He even started competing against hundreds of dogs in major Southern California dog surfing competitions over the next four years.  “Haole was always on the podium–he didn’t always win first place, although he has several times,” shares Kim. “There are a few surf dogs in the last year or two that say that Haole inspired them to learn to surf.”

Sometimes an older dog can teach others new tricks, and in that spirit Haole and his family have also been deeply committed to providing surf therapy to kids with special needs or disabilities with the A Walk On Water (AWOW) program. In 2014 Haole was six years old, and was doing a surfing exhibition at the popular Ventura Surf Rodeo event, where AWOW was doing mini expression sessions (surfing showcases with no judges or official competition).  The AWOW folks were so taken with him that they asked Haole to participate in their events moving forward. “The kids fell in love with him,” says Kim.

According to Sean Swentek, AWOW’s Executive Director, surfing is one of the most difficult sports there is, even for those with no disability or unique need. “The learning curve is very steep, and that’s partly why the reward is so great when a child catches a wave for the first time. While getting ready on the beach, Haole’s calm and safe demeanor helps our athletes feel relaxed as they anticipate what will happen at the day’s event,” says Swentek. “You’ll often hear a child who was previously nervous about surfing say something like: ‘If Haole can do it, then so can I!’”

The gentle and stalwart surfing dog has had some challenges along the way. “Haole has been battling cancer, but has had exceptional care,” says Kim. His primary care vet is Ohana in Ventura, his surgeon is Dr. Ian Holsworth at VetSurg, his internal medicine doctors are Horizon Veterinary Specialists, and he has received outstanding oncology care from Dr. Daina Budreckis with VMSG.  He is doing great, and is expected to continue to be happy and comfortable. “He’s happy, he’s surfing, he’s eating, doing everything a dog should be doing,” according to Kim.  “We try to bring Haole surfing every weekend, if not, a couple times a month.”

So keep your eyes peeled for Haole out in the waves (or on his excellent Instagram account with more than 30,000 followers), making the sport of kings look easy, and bringing smiles and spreading stoke with every wave he catches.

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