Golden Retriever rides to victory in California dog Surf-a-Thon

DEL MAR, California Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:02am EDT

DEL MAR, California (Reuters) - A young Golden Retriever and semi-pro surfer, Ricochet, rode the waves to victory on Sunday at a California annual dog Surf-a-Thon, but it was a novice therapy dog that emerged from the water as a new star to watch.

Bo Diddley, a 5-year-old therapy dog, sat his way to a second place finish on a longboard in the extra-large dog heat in his first foray in the San Diego canine surfing scene, delighting his owner and his trainer.

"This is his first championship competition. He's only been surfing a couple of weeks," said Mark Taylor, who owns the lab-shepherd mix. "He really likes it."

While Diddley waited calmly to be hauled back out into the surf, volunteer trainer Shawn Schuette glowed. He'd started working with Diddley several days ago in practice runs before Sunday's event at the Del Mar Dog Beach, put on by the Helen Woodward Animal Center for the seventh year.

Jessica Gerke, spokeswoman for the center, said about 80 dogs had been registered for the event, billed as the world's largest dog-surfing competition.

"We look for the length of the wave, whether or not the dog starts surfing on white water or the wave," said Bob Burk, one of the event judges.

"If they move around and look like they're comfortable, if they stand instead of sitting, that gets points."

As for today's champion, Ricochet repeatedly rode the smooth waves both standing and sitting with tremendous grace and calm, her nose pointed down as if unaware of her audience, winning an award for "Best in Surf."

Ricochet, who has already raised more than $51,000 for charity and been photographed with actress Betty White, has also been viewed 3 million times on YouTube, Facebook and the dog's own website.

Another dog, Kinsey, won style points for doing most of the heats facing backward and barking. The 2-year-old German Shepherd mix seemed delighted by every part of surfing.

"She gets excited when I get my wetsuit out," owner Chris Garloff said. "She just loves to come to the beach."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston; editing by Todd Eastham)

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