“The salt water of the ocean is my therapy, my church,” Peter Noll says.
A decade ago, Noll may have scoffed at the idea of his dog accompanying him to that church-slash-therapy, but not anymore. Along with a group of other volunteers, he teaches dog surfing clinics over the summer, but hems and haws at that term: dog surfing. “It’s a misnomer,” he explains. “We teach humans how to surf with their dogs. Owners put their dogs on the board, paddle them out, ease them into a wave, and then grab them afterward.”
Noll, who started the group SoCal Surf Dogs, volunteers with the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California to help raise money and awareness by teaching people how to surf with their dogs. His Bernese mountain dog, Nani, is almost 12, and Noll says surfing has helped extend her life. But his other dog, 10-year-old Kiki, wants nothing to do with the water.
Nani’s kind of a big deal. She’s a world champion and a Surf Dog Hall-of-Famer (yes, that’s a thing) who started surfing nine years ago, but Noll has since retired her. Back in her heydey, she appeared in the movie Marmaduke as one of the dogs in the background; she made more money that week than “any of us did,” Noll laughs.