SAN BARTOLO, Peru (Reuters Life!) - Peruvian surfer Domingo Pianezzi has spent a decade training dogs to ride the nose of his board when he catches waves, and now he is the first to do so with an alpaca.
Pianezzi, 44, has slowly introduced his alpaca Pisco, a domesticated Andean highland animal that resembles a small llama, to the waters of the Pacific Ocean over the past several months.
The duo caught three waves on a yellow 10-foot (3-meter) longboard on Tuesday at a small break south of Lima, Peru's capital. Pisco, wearing a flotation vest, crouched on the board while taking off on each wave and cruised for a few seconds before bailing into the water with a bit of a fright.
Pianezzi, who teaches surfing to kids and has competed before at international contests for people and their surfing dogs, came up with the idea of hitting the waves with an alpaca while visiting Australia.
"I've surfed with a dog, a parrot, a hamster and a cat, but when I was at a competition in Australia I saw people surfing with kangaroos and koalas," said Pianezzi, who trains the alpaca in the Peruvian beach town of San Bartolo.
"So I thought that, as a Peruvian, it would be interesting to surf with a unique animal that represents Peru."
Peruvians raise alpacas, a species of South American camelid, primarily for their warm wool and occasionally for food.
Pianezzi says some San Bartolo residents have accused him of mistreating Pisco by taking a mountain animal into the ocean. Others, however, regard him as an innovator.
There are other hurdles.
Unlike a Labrador Retriever, an alpaca does not instinctively jump into the sea for a swim.
Pianezzi, however, says Pisco, whom he named in homage to the distinctive Peruvian liquor distilled from grapes, is getting used to the water.
(Reporting by Terry Wade; Editing by Paul Simao)