We humans had better watch out. When it comes to the innovative use of tools, animals are hot on our tails. Capuchin monkeys have been known to smash hard nuts and seeds with stones, and certain crows have been observed using sticks to wiggle juicy insects out of their hiding places. In 2007, we discovered that chimpanzees use sharpened sticks when hunting, which makes them the first non-human species to carry weapons. Then in 2012, three New Zealand dogs were plucked from an animal shelter and taught how to drive.
What’s more, it seems the world of outdoor sports is not exempt from the talents of these adaptive animals either. Just take a look at these 10 creatures, all of which have taken to the waves to hang ten, ride barrels, or simply wait for the next set to roll in.
Peruvian surf instructor Domingo Pianezzi first experimented with animal surfing by training dogs to catch waves on the nose of his surfboard. However, after a while he decided this was old hat. As a proud Peruvian, Pianezzi decided to take an alpaca named Pisco into the surf. Alpacas are distinctively Peruvian animals that live in mountainous regions at altitudes of up to 16,000 feet – so let’s just say the sea is not their natural habitat! These llama-like creatures are also not naturally water loving, and Pianezzi has faced some criticism for taking his pet into the ocean. Still, he maintains that Pisco is becoming accustomed to both the water and the sport.
You don't have to be big to catch big waves. And to these mice, small waves that might wash over your feet are a sign that the surf's up. Australian mouse breeder Shane Wilmott makes tiny mouse-sized surfboards for a whole ensemble of little mice to use at his local beach, with the truly talented ones managing to surf for several feet – which is a long distance for a mouse!
Don’t worry; Wilmott has a system that maximizes safety. First the mice train in the bath; then they’re switched to a pool where they’re towed by a remote-controlled boat; and then finally it’s time for the real thing. Skidmark, the mouse pictured here, comes from a long line of surfing rodents, and his grandparents were the first mice that Wilmott trained to hang ten.
These days, surfing is clearly a cat-and-mouse game. Not content with surfing dogs and alpacas (as well as hamsters and parrots), Domingo Pianezzi also takes his cat Nicolasa out onto the waves with him. Everyone knows how much most cats dislike water, so it could be construed as cruel. Still, think about it: that natural aversion is probably what makes this kitty so skilled! While Nicolasa spends some of his surf time up on Pianezzi's shoulder, he’s also happy to hang out on the tip of the board as well. And he’s not the only feline with a knack for surfing; there’s a cat on YouTube that escaped a dog by riding a board across a pool.
Interestingly, not all cat breeds hate water. In fact, the Bengal and Turkish Van love the stuff. And we’ve all seen footage of big cats, such as tigers, submerged in water.
California is a Mecca for surfers, whether they’re young, old, or... goats? Goat herder Dana McGregor loved surfing so much that he just assumed his goats would enjoy the sport as well. He bought a nanny goat named Goatee to help him clear weeds from his property (goats are, of course, famous for scoffing pretty much everything) and planned to eat her when the job was done. “I used to live in Africa, and we ate goats in Africa and they're pretty good and tasty,” says McGregor.
But Goatee wormed her way into McGregor’s heart, and eventually he couldn’t bring himself to serve her up for dinner. Goatee even gave birth to a daughter, Pismo, who is equally at home on the waves. And McGregor takes both Pismo and Goatee surfing and plans to use their fame to help raise money for charities, including a goat milk farm in Haiti. Compared to being eaten, it looks like Goatee has it made with surfing.
Tote bags, cups, t-shirts and more are all adorned with images of this surfing rabbit riding the waves. While we have the name “Hazel” and the year “1981” to go on, the rest of this talented bunny’s story is lost in the mists of time. Who was he? Why was he surfing? A lone Internet comment from 2010 gives us a few tantalizing details. Apparently, Hazel was featured on a TV show called That's Incredible, and his owners said that they used to bring him and his mate on trips to the sea. While the female rabbit stayed on the shore, Hazel liked to hop in the surf, and one day he leapt onto a surfboard. The “surf bunny” jokes write themselves.
Did you know that there's an annual surf competition just for dogs? It’s called the Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition, and it’s held in San Diego. Categories include small dogs, large dogs, and tandem surfs, where a dog and a human surfer share a board together. Abbie Girl, pictured here, is perhaps the most famous surfing pooch. Not only has she won multiple honors in the competition, but she’s also the proud holder of a Guinness World Record. In 2011, Abbie Girl surfed an “open water” wave an astounding distance of 351 feet and eight inches.
Abbie Girl was once a nervous rescue dog. To boost her self-esteem, her owner Michael took her on trips to the ocean. When he noticed her love for the water and her habit of jumping on his surfboard, he decided to try floating her out into the waves – and that kick-started her surfing career. Abbie Girl is a kelpie, which is an Australian dog bred to help herd sheep. Kelpies have even been known to jump on pesky sheep at times. And Abbie Girl’s natural instincts and great sense of coordination and balance mean that surfing is child’s play to her.
This surfing duck flew down from the heavens one day to show us humans how it’s done. And while the human surfer juggled his weight around in an effort to stay upright, the duck calmly perched itself on the front of the board, flapping its wings occasionally as if in triumph. When the man lost his balance and fell off, the duck continued surfing for a moment – just to show that it could – before flying away. An onlooker captured the bizarre event on video, and the clip became a hit online. Wonder Performance Bread even used the footage in an advertisement and took the credit for the duck's surfing skills.
This isn’t an overgrown guinea pig – it’s a capybara! These gentle giants are the biggest rodents on the planet and are related to the more familiar guinea pig. Hailing from South America, they can grow to up to 150 pounds and almost four-and-a-half feet in length (and even bigger specimens have been reported). Their webbed toes also give you a clue as to where they like to spend their time.
Capybaras are water-mad and spend much of their time in marshes, lakes and rivers. In this YouTube screenshot, you can see Caplin the capybara chilling out on a bodyboard in the pool. Based on how placid and gentle capybaras tend to be, this one’s probably not into big wave surfing – but it sure does seem to enjoy this low-key take on the discipline.
It looks like we'll have to retire the phrase “drowned rat,” because the rat in this picture looks perfectly at ease on the water. Hawaiian teenager Boomer Hodel first took his pet rats Tofu and Fin down to the sea for a wash, but when he saw how much they loved the waves, it became a regular trip. When Hodel, an avid surfer, snapped his board, he got the idea to sand the two halves down into mini versions that would be just the right size for his furry friends. Amazingly, the rats can now ride the waves like pros. In fact, they can even perform tricks that some human surfers find difficult to learn, like “catching tubes” (surfing through tunnels of water as the wave breaks over the surfer).
Rats are intelligent creatures with excellent balance. They’re brilliant swimmers as well, and their survival skills have led to them colonizing every continent except Antarctica.
Okay, so this squirrel isn't surfing; it’s water skiing. But can you blame us for including it? Twiggy, pictured above, is trained by Florida-based couple Chuck and Lou Ann Best, who previously taught a poodle to surf and a monkey to skate. In truth, the name Twiggy is actually a stage name for a number of different water-skiing gray squirrels. As a species, gray squirrels are brilliant at adapting to situations and smart enough to figure out how to access “squirrel-proof” birdfeeders. Combine this with their great sense of balance, and it’s no surprise that they can put most of us humans to shame when it comes to water skiing.
The first Twiggy was found orphaned after a hurricane way back in 1979, and a joke about getting the squirrel to learn how to water ski soon became reality. Through the use of a heated pool, a remote controlled toy boat and foam blocks that the squirrel holds onto, the world's first water skiing squirrel was born. And when the glitz and glamor of showbiz gets too much for a Twiggy, they retire to a comfortable life as a pet and a new Twiggy takes up the role. Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel is now world famous and has appeared in the movies Dodgeball and Anchorman. Well, one of them at least.
This sheep is certainly not following the crowd. With a little help from some human friends, Mildred the sheep gets up on her surfboard and with a few bleats and baas rides the waves as coolly as a cucumber. If you're worried about how she's going to manage to get that water out of her wool then fear not – the video showing Mildred surfing is actually computer generated. The innovative promo was used by Cornwall, UK-based surf wear company Finisterre to highlight the work they’ve done breeding a flock of Bowmont sheep to provide high-quality British wool for their clothing. Bowmont wool is incredibly fine and costs 20 times more than normal wool.