JUPITER, Fla. >> When you teach dogs to surf, patience is the key.
“Sometimes they jump off the board. They leap on my head. A few take off down the beach. But they calm down. That’s part of the fun,” said Sam Chiet, who charges $30 for 30 minutes to teach canines how to ride the waves at Carlin Park.
Chiet and his mother, Shellie, a beginning surfer, started Surfur Dogs four years ago. The summertime lessons are a chance for canines to hone their surfing skills leading up to the third annual Hang 20 Surf Dog Classic on Aug. 26 at the beach at the Jupiter Civic Center.
Chiet, 21, donates part of his proceeds to Furry Friends Adoption Clinic and Ranch, organizers of the event.
About 2,300 people showed up last year. About 3,000 are expected this year. Five different dog surfing competitions are planned, each with about 15 dogs. There is a surfing heat for little dogs. Another for big dogs. Dogs on paddleboards. Dogs owned by military veterans.
“Dogs surfing, you don’t see that every day. People love coming out to the beach and having fun with the dogs,” said Karen Counts, programs director with Furry Friends.
Watching his canine students is the fun part of the job, said Chiet. Dressed in his usual work attire of a T-shirt and shorts on a recent afternoon, Chiet said his four-legged customers are as varied as their owners.
He’s taught chihuahuas the size of a six-pack. There was a bull mastiff that weighed about 150 pounds. He does between 10 to 15 lessons a weekend.
Chiet takes the dogs out about 30 yards on his board. Each dog wears a life vest. Some dogs lie down. Some stand up. It usually takes about three lessons for a dog to feel comfortable on the board, Chiet said.
The nervous customers put their tails between their legs. They shake as Chiet rides the waves with them.
“Dogs are easier to teach to surf than people. I give them a treat. I bring a bell or rope for a toy. I calm them down,” said Chiet, who owns two dogs. Marley, a black lab, is too old to surf. Romi, a mutt, is going to learn to surf this year.
The lessons are in the summer because the surf is flat, said Shellie Chiet, who takes photos and videos for Surfur Dogs.
“It’s tough for anyone to balance on a surfboard. To get a dog with four paws to balance is really tough. Sam is a very mellow and chill person. He makes the dogs, and their owners, feel comfortable,” she said.
Chiet, who earned money walking and washing dogs growing up, says he hopes someday to make his summer canine surf-teaching job his full-time career.
Americans’ growing obsession with their dogs will fuel his business, he said.
“I love dogs. I love to surf. People love their dogs so much. I think I can make it happen,” said Chiet.