Contest delayed by sharks; no puppies were harmed

COCOA BEACH – Standing on her padded surfboard and staring into a sea of ​​onlookers waiting for her second wave, Lily probably didn’t notice a few curious sharks that had invaded the shore on Easter Sunday.

But, after a shark timeout of 30 minutes, the soon to be 7-year-old yellow lab conquered a field of eight talented dogs, a throbbing undercurrent and, of course, all fear of sharks to win his second consecutive East Coast . Canine Surfing Championships at Lori Wilson Park.

It was the first time in the contest’s 10-year span that sharks interrupted the crowd-pleasing event, and according to Theresa Clifton, event host and executive director of the Brevard Humane Society. He was told the creatures were within 10 feet of shore.

Lifeguards whistled for everyone to get out of the ocean, but Lily’s owner and trainer, Michael Vogt of Port St. Lucie, didn’t overreact by keeping about 20 yards away.

“To be honest, driving I-4 is much more dangerous,” he said with a smile.

Lily, whose older sister Laila also surfed locally, has become a celebrity over the years, landing a cover spot in FLORIDA TODAY’s annual Fact Book, winning the Pups & Sups surf contest last October in St Augustine, and catching a story as part of the children’s section of the nationally circulated newspaper. Garden and Gun magazine.

“She does a lot,” said Vogt, who often trains her dogs off Jensen Beach. “But I just want to underline the importance of this event for the Humane Society, and all the donations in return.”

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Lily had opened the event with a nice ride on the shore, and Vogt had already prepared her for a second wave in the opening heat when lifeguards spotted two small sharks.

Two-foot waves and the occasional hard chop gave the dogs — from pocket chihuahuas to 40-pound furry labs and mountain dogs — a little extra challenge.

Bolt finished second, while Pancake – who competed with an inflatable shark fin, perhaps to blend in with visitors from the deep – won the Dog Bikini Contest, wearing a bikini-patterned t-shirt, d an aqua sun cap and matching Beach Crocs.

Nugget, one of the pocket surf competitors, won the Buddy Award trophy.

Clifton, who estimated the event raised $5,000 when combined with the many dog ​​surf lessons and dog access and parking donations, said the sharks were a surprise, “but we are very safe and very careful”.

She credited surf shop Ron Jon for stepping in as title sponsor, spending money on beach access and patrols, for example, as dog surfing suddenly replaced “human” surfing. in an Easter Surf Festival tradition that dates back 57 years – the nation’s second-longest at the East Coast Championships in Virginia Beach.

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Clifton was also grateful for generous donations from area businesses that totaled some $1,000.

Longtime Chief Justice Tony Sasso, representing Keep Brevard Beautiful, thanked participants, volunteers and spectators for helping the Humane Society.

“We’re a pretty blessed community,” he said.

One of the judges this year was Cocoa Beach City’s new manager, Robin Hayes.

“It was a beautiful sunny day, the crowd was huge, it went really well,” Clifton said. “And with all of our wonderful volunteers, we’ll leave the beach cleaner than when we found it.”

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