COCOA BEACH — Challenging, choppy waves kept many of the competitors on the sidelines at the 57th annual Easter Surf Fest, but Lily was — paws down — the most fearless and nearly flawless to win Sunday’s East Coast Dog Surfing Championships.
Lily, approaching her sixth birthday, has been surfing since she was eight weeks old and the veteran yellow Lab put on a dominant performance in front of a couple thousand spectators at Lori Wilson Park.
“She had a blast,” said Lily’s owner and trainer Michael Vogt of Port St. Lucie. “It was fun but it all benefits the Brevard Humane Society and that’s what’s important.”
Dogs also brought laughter to the crowd on Easter Sunday with a Red Carpet Runway contest, in which Darcy and Winston shared top honors, although Stella looked dazzling in her pink and white polka dot dog-kini.
The winners and several others all donated their earnings back to the Brevard Humane Society.
As far as the human portion of the event, top honors in the adult class went to Logan Hofstetter, a native of Largo on Florida’s west coast and not far from Indian Rocks Beach, made popular by former World Surf League stars Corey and Shea Lopez.
Two years ago at age 16, Hofstetter was ranked 30th in the world among juniors. He now spends a good portion of his time in Huntington Beach, California, preparing for World Qualifying Series events.
Finishing second was Cocoa Beach lifeguard Victor Nunez, who grew up surfing in Costa Rica.
Third place went to little Shea Edwards, who was invited into the main draw after winning the kids’ Menehune division.
Barry Pasonski, who in 2000 suffered two shark bites while surfing in Floridana Beach, captured top honors in the Over-50 division.
While the wind and strong currents kept most visitors on the beach Saturday, Cocoa Beach lifeguard Joshua Rakovan was happy to report no rescues were needed.
Rakovan, 19, was spending his final weekend in Cocoa Beach before departing to lengthy training sessions to become a U.S. Navy diver. The popular beachgoer, who has surfed with several celebrities, including Melbourne Beach’s Doug Flutie of NFL and college football fame, is looking forward to his new career.
“But I’m really going to miss this place,” he said.
Late Saturday afternoon, a rare on-beach concert took place with the popular band Beebs and Her Money Makers, and two other performers, getting fans to dance on the sand.
“Everybody had a really good time,” said event host Craig Harriman. “The winds were high but they stuck it out.
“And the dogs were awesome. Cocoa Beach doesn’t let dogs on the beach (except around Murkshe Park, far south). But for all the dogs we had and how well (they behaved) and how the owners were responsible … I mean, pets are like people’s family.”
Just ask Lily’s owner. This weekend certainly showed it’s a dog’s life on the beach.