The Allure of Dog Surfing

It’s not every time that you can tell when a local institution is becoming iconic, but it’s clear to see that’s what’s happening with Hang 8 Dog Surfing in Flagler Beach. The event was already more popular than expected at last year’s inaugural event, and this year’s running again far exceeded expectations. It’s a new lifeblood for the city of Flagler Beach.
Attending Hang 8 on Saturday was overwhelming in more ways than one. It was brutally hot out, as is to be expected, and the few city blocks that the event took up were jam-packed with people.
But for the event’s organizers, Mayor Suzie Johnston and City Commission Chair Eric Cooley, these were good problems to have. It was prime beach weather and seemingly half the town came out to witness Hang 8. For all the challenges involved, things were an unequivocal success.
“It’s probably a lot more than last year,” said Cooley in what was likely a significant understatement. “I think we already broke last year’s [number] by more than double.” For Cooley, both an elected official in Flagler Beach and a small business owner, having an annual event that regularly exceeds expectations will pay dividends for stakeholders of the community. His own 7-Eleven business, located just next to the event on A1A, was packed with patrons throughout the morning and afternoon. Many other businesses nearby seemingly were as well.
“I feel like the event is more organized this year,” said Johnston. “Last year Eric and I had no idea what to expect. We thought we would have about fifty people turn out with five dogs, and it just blew away our expectations. So this year we were just more prepared and organized, and we’ve been able to enjoy the contest more.” Johnston went on to estimate that between 500 and 1,000 people attended the event Saturday, but the true number was likely substantially higher.
Beyond just the impact on the local economy, all proceeds from Hang 8 went to good causes. K9s for Warriors, the Flagler Humane Society, and SMART of Flagler County, each pet-based charities and nonprofits, were each benefited by the money raised throughout the event.