No trip to our fabled Queen of the Coast is possible without running into one or two furry and frothing locals patrolling the point. And no, I’m not talking about the more feral-looking wave riders who frequent Rincon. I am talking about Man’s Best Friend, those four-legged, tail-wagging stoke monsters that, for many surfers, are as big a part of their session as the wetsuit they wear or the board on which they paddle out. And while there are many pooches who can lay claim to the sand, cobblestones, and sticks of Rincon as their “home away from home,” the following five hounds are sure to be recognized if you surf the Queen with any regularity.
This spunky little fox-like dog all too frequently escapes from his leash and terrorizes the beach scene with ill-placed peeing and snarling standoffs against dogs four times his size. A 7-year-old Shiba Inu that came to Carpinteria by way of a breeder in South Dakota (that’s right; he is a mail-order dog), Tosh has been known to log long, long hours on the point even after his owner is done riding the wild surf. His human is a guy named Sky, and to hear him tell it, despite his cute and cuddly appearance, having Tosh as your primary surf partner is no easy task. “He is sneaky,” says Sky. “He will wait until I turn my back and start loading the boards in my truck and then split [back to the beach] as fast as he can. More than once it has taken me hours to get him back.”
A 3-year-old rescue dog from the deep, dark depths of Los Angeles, Dyl’n is typically found hanging in the shade of one of the many driftwood beach huts that line the Cove. Her human is a style-conscious goofy-foot longboarder named Leo; she is an old-souled sort of pooch who prefers to keep to herself and chill under the radar. Her shyness is soon forgotten, however, after she sees someone she knows get a good one through the inside. “That is when she gets all happy and energized,” explains Leo. “She will run down to the waters and meet them as they come in. It’s cool, but then I get mad because it means I have to clean her when we get home.”
Levi (a k a The Bandit)
Well on his way to his 14th birthday, Levi is perhaps the heaviest local Rincon has these days. The runt of a nine-cattle-dog litter born in Buellton, Levi generally posts up in the Cove and guards his humans’ stuff while they surf — a noble duty no matter what, but especially important when your owner is a professional surf photographer with heaps of expensive gear. Like most old salts, Levi has seen it all over the years and is rarely impressed enough by any other dog to even acknowledge their existence. Food, however, is something he never ignores. If you have snacks or a lunch with you down Rincon way, you better keep an eye out for the old bandit, as Levi has poached more than a few unattended lunch boxes over the years while his mom and dad harvest the rollers. “He loves to eat, and he will eat anything and everything,” says his owner Valerie. “I’ve never seen him actually steal a lunch, but I’ve sure heard all about it. You have to be careful with him.”
This little guy belongs to shaper Ryan Lovelace. Lovelace makes unique and timeless surfsleds, and Herbie is one heck of a unique and timeless dog. An 8-year-young rescue dog from Fillmore, Herbie, who is a dachshund-Chihuahua mix, was paralyzed once upon a time but has recovered just fine, bringing with him an indescribable sort of Zen wisdom. He is — like all smart surfers — a big fan of offshore winds, his nose finely tuned to sniff and then celebrate even the slightest of offshore flows. (Seriously, Herbie actually sniffs offshore winds and then freaks out with happiness. He ignores onshores and has total disgust for southerly breezes.) “He is my little dude,” says Lovelace. “I’m not sure if he follows me or I follow him, but we are always together … He is the only thing I would ever give up surfing for.”
Supposedly, the California Coastal Commission’s enforcement staff has an open case against this beast of an animal for his sand- and stick-destroying antics. He has a brutally efficient two-pawed digging style that trenches deep and fast, leaving long scars in the sand that are big enough to hide a good-sized toddler in. He also has a wicked addiction to sticks, a problem so severe that Danger has been known to bark obnoxiously at strangers, demanding that they throw something for him. (Do not, I repeat, do not play fetch with this dog if you hope to have any peace and quiet while at the beach.) Danger is an 8-year-old German shepherd/Australian shepherd mix from Santa Ynez with an owner who must be some sort of derelict, as the dog seems to be on the beach virtually every day. I swear I once saw him at Rincon and then Hammonds and then El Capitán all in one morning, and there was never a human in sight. His owner, a shifty-looking guy with a very big beard, says of the 100-pound pup, “I love him, but don’t expect me to ever admit he’s mine; he is way too crazy.”