Hani the Hawaiian Surfer Dog

By: Shelley Seale
Hawaiian Surf Dog

I recently spent a few weeks in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. My time there was wonderful — I was farm-sitting for 1o days on the southeastern tip of the island (yes, you heard that right, I was caretaking a small one-acre farm with dogs, geese, chickens and even a turtle!), and then spent four days at the super-fun Laylow Hotel in Waikiki, Honolulu.

I got to explore nearly isolated beaches at leisure, visit Pearl Harbor, go snorkeling, hike Diamond Head, eat some amazing seafood and Asian food, and basically just soak up the Hawaiian sunshine and aloha lifestyle. But of all the things I did on Oahu, perhaps my most favorite was seeing a dog named Hani.


Hani is no ordinary dog, you see. She surfs.

Hawaiian Surf Dog

Hani is one of three dogs that work with pro surfer Rocky Canon at the North Shore’s Turtle Bay Resort. Rocky and his dogs (the others are Kahuna and Pulu) take people out surfing, to get introduced to Hawaii’s famed North Shore — one of the top surfing spots on the planet.

Rocky, who is the Lead Ocean Guide at Turtle Bay Resort, created Hawaii Surf Dogs to welcome newcomers to the North Shore. He’s an ocean safety specialist, and between his experience and the happy, calming presence of the dogs, even insecure swimmers or surfers can feel at ease in the ocean here.

I didn’t know any of this when I arrived at Turtle Bay. I had driven up from Waimanalo, where I was farm sitting, for a day trip at the North Shore. There was a Junior Surf Competition going on at the resort, and I enjoyed a yummy lunch of Kaibi tacos with kimchee while watching the last of the young surf competitors and the final awards ceremony.

Afterwards, I did a walking tour around the large, beautiful Turtle Bay property (fun fact: this is where the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed). After magnificent views of the crashing surf over jagged black clifftops, I rounded a corner where a much calmer bay and stunning beach came into view. It was no surprise to see a few people in the water trying their hands (feet?) at surfing, but I was surprised to see…wait a minute…did I hear barking? I had to look closer, then did a double take.


Was that a dog out there on one of the surfboards?

Indeed, it was. It was Hani, in fact. There she was, seeming to be having a blast. She was standing on the surfboard, looking back at the waves coming in, barking in excitement as she prepared for the next ride. There was a child next to her on the board, and a man (who I later learned was Rocky) at the back of the board, getting it set up to catch the wave and helping the child to ride it.


Hani was having the time of her life. And I’d never seen anything that delighted me so.

Me with a ridiculous handful of puppies

For anyone who might know me or anything about me, it’s no surprise that I was so happy at the sight of a surfing dog. To say I love dogs is a huge understatement. I’ve always had at least one dog since I was a small child. I’ve long been involved with several animal rescue groups back home in Austin, and I’ve fostered numerous dogs (my dog, Selma, in fact was originally my Austin Dog Rescue foster until I adopted her myself). I even do dog-sitting because I love the animals so much; in fact, there I was in Hawaii, sitting for four dogs on the farm.

So, yeah, I’m a bit of a dog freak. I was enthralled and couldn’t get enough of watching Hani surf the waves like a boss, over and over. Man, was she having fun! I had seen videos of dogs surfing before, but had never seen it in real life. I made myself at home on the beach and just watched her for an hour or more, until she and Rocky tired out and packed up for the day.


The dogs taught Rocky how to surf with them — and then taught each other how to surf!

This is the part that I love so much. Rocky’s first surfing dog was Pulu — who just followed him out to the surf so much that one day, about 16 years ago, Rocky borrowed a large two-person surfboard from a friend so that Pulu could fit on it with him. The dog swam up, climbed on the board and the two rode their first wave together. Rocky says they’ve never looked back since.

When Rocky adopted Hina later on, Pulu taught Hina how to surf when she only four months old. She then taught Kahuna when he was adopted into the family from the Hawaiian Humane Society.

Photo courtesy of Hawaii Surf Dogs