Skyler the Surf Dog

Pro surfer Homer Henard contemplates life as a celebrity dog handler

Words by Natalie Smith
Photos by Nelly

Conditions came together perfectly for this postcard quality photo of Homer and Skyler with the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in the background.

Conditions came together perfectly for this postcard quality photo of Homer and Skyler with the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in the background.

Santa Cruz pro surfer Homer Henard has been joining the lineup lately with the surfing K-9 Skyler, his trusty Queensland Heeler. Skyler has been gaining popularity in the Santa Cruz area, making appearances in the newsfeeds of many local surfers and beachgoers. Recently long time ASJ contributor Dave “Nelly” Nelson has been teaming up with the duo for photos and at least one top secret project that could raise Skyler’s visibility significantly beyond the surfing crowd. Stay tuned.

With just under 2,000 followers on Instagram, Homer considers Skyler’s talent to still be under the radar, but we don’t doubt that she is on her way to gaining ultra-celebrity dog status with what the pair have in store for the coming months. As Homer puts it, “Sky’s the limit!” for his pup. And it’s not just surfing the dynamic duo are stoked about – they have a number of great causes they are taking head on. Recently involved with non-profit surf organizations Operation Surf and Waves of Impact, Homer and Skyler’s enthusiasm in making the world a brighter place is a source of inspiration to all of us adventure sports lovers, and an important reminder that our outlets in the outdoors can be a medium to bring people together in support of a good cause.

ASJ intern Natalie Smith recently caught up with Homer to discuss Skyler’s success thus far, and gain some insight into what we can look forward to from the unstoppable pair in the coming months.

ASJ When did Skyler first come into your life?
HH My Dad surprised me with Skyler when she was a puppy. He found her in Turlock on a ranch where her mother and father were working cattle dogs. She came into my life at only five weeks old. Skyler is now five years old and charging.

ASJ How did you discover that Skyler was a natural surfer?
HH One summer day, I brought Skyler down to the harbor and she ran up and jumped straight onto my stand up paddle board showcasing her balance skills. Right then I knew it was on since she was a natural! Next adventure, I took her out surfing on a small day and she just loved it. After that there was no turning back. Skyler was not like other dogs – she always wanted to do whatever I was doing. She actually thinks she is human. Instead of playing with the other dogs, she would post up with the boys. Skyler is always frothing to get out there and surf with me which is actually funny because she doesn’t like swimming in the water very much. When I turn the garden hose on she runs away, but when I set our surfboard in the water she runs up and jumps straight on it, just like that first day. It is really special surfing and bonding out there with her. She really has implicit trust in me that I am not going to let anything happen to her. I am always right there to swoop her back onto the surfboard. She will run up to the nose of the surfboard with her tongue out ready to catch another wave.

ASJ Explain how this whole thing blew up on Facebook and Instagram?
HH I actually do not think she really has blown up yet on Facebook or Instagram. She is still virtually underground, she only has 1,800 followers on Instagram, which is nothing in reality. Some of the other surf dogs have millions of followers! I am sure all of this will change in the next couple months. Surfing Magazine posted a great picture of Skyler surfing a big wave out at middle peak Steamers Lane captioned “Biggest Wave Ever Ridden by a Dog.” They said she was the winner of the K-9 XXL award…

ASJ What’s next for Homer and Skyler?
HH Who knows what the future holds for Skyler the surfing dog. At the moment we are working on a couple cool projects. Stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled – expect big things! Basically Skyler and I are just out there trying to spread positive vibes and put a smile on people’s faces. Skyler has taught me to not take life too seriously, smile and have fun. We are definitely breaking down barriers and pushing the limits in dog surfing. We are actually working towards getting barreled which is going to happen soon. We also have been getting involved with organizations in the community like Waves of Impact who help kids facing exceptional challenges get in the water and ride waves. Utilizing Skyler as an amazing service dog puts a smile on kids’ faces and shows them how to feel more comfortable in the water. They see Skyler out there and say, “Hey that dog is surfing out here, so I can do it, too.” Recently we were involved with Operation Surf. We got to surf with wounded war heroes who fight for our freedoms. It was such an inspirational week seeing the determination and the stoke that these wounded warriors get from riding waves. Operation Surf shows that the ocean is not just a beautiful place to play but an opportunity for healing.

ASJ Do you have any advice for other surfers who are looking to teach their dogs to surf? What surf conditions and lineups are not appropriate for surf dogs?
HH My advice for other surfers wanting to take their dogs surfing is safety first, know your limits, and your dog’s limits too. I advise buying a doggy life vest and really if you want to take your pet out, do it on a really small day to start off and make sure you are confident in your own ocean skills as well. You can’t make your dog surf; basically he or she is either going to be into it or not. So try to ensure that your dog’s first ocean experience is a good one. Have fun and good luck!

Interested in keeping up with Skyler? Check her out on Instagram @skylerthesurfingdog.

Homer and Skyler check out the surf.

Homer and Skyler check out the surf.

Close up of Skyler as Homer paddles back to the lineup.

Close up of Skyler as Homer paddles back to the lineup.

Typical activities for Skyler include playing catch and checking the surf.

Typical activities for Skyler include playing catch and checking the surf.

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