04/13/2011 AT 2:00 PM ET
The doggy paddle is so last year. When Labrador retriever Sava wants to make a splash, she takes a cue from her owner, legendary surfer Billy Hamilton: Sava hits her board.
Sava, now 11, first learned to surf as a puppy, when Hamilton would take her out on his boat in Hawaii.
“She’d get knocked off the bow by a wave, but she’d keep getting back up and sit in her forward position,” Hamilton tells PEOPLEPets.com. “We started out in a boat getting our balance together and worked toward the board.”
Since then, Sava has been riding with Hamilton, still in her forward position at the front of the surfboard. There was one occasion when Hamilton was knocked off his 12-ft. board and Sava continued to ride, even correcting the board’s balance on her own.
“Somehow she managed to skirt the cement pilings near the pier, standing casually like she’d pulled that off a hundred times,” Hamilton says. “The spectators on the pier clapped.”
Hamilton says that dogs are well-suited for surfing because they have a low center of gravity and their four legs help them balance easily on the board. After a decade of catching waves, Sava rides a custom board that Hamilton shaped for her. It includes a traction pad so that she can walk easily on the board.
Sava also gets to enjoy some special treats – a mix of dried tuna, sardines and Eukanuba senior food. Hamilton is a spokesperson for Eukanuba, and has helped launch the Eukanuba 28-Day Challenge. As for the dogs who dream of surfing like Sava, Hamilton has some words of wisdom.
“My advice is to start out on a paddle board in flat water,” Hamilton says. “Get on the board together and let your dog get used to the movement of the water. Lay on the board with your dog –they love just being out there with you. From there, evolve to standing up. Take it slow and keep it fun.”
For more information on the Eukanuba 28-Day Challenge, check out Eukanuba’s Facebook page.
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