Sugar the Surfing Rescue Dog

By David Powdrell

So here’s the deal…I met a dog recently and her story is worth sharing with you.

As a puppy, Sugar was abandoned on the side of the road in Oakland, California. While on vacation in 2011, accomplished Huntington Beach surfer Ryan Rustan found Sugar and took her in. At the time, Ryan had just gotten out of an abusive relationship and was working through drug addiction recovery.

As most adopted pets do, Sugar gave Ryan unconditional love. They immediately became inseparable.

While playing in a pool one day, Ryan put the puppy on a boogie board. Sugar took to it instantly. The next step; get Sugar onto a surfboard and into the ocean.

Sugar began winning every dog surfing competition she entered. Her poise, bravery and style captured the judge’s attention like none other. “Sugar wins every time,” Rustan mentioned. “She has a competitive edge and she’s there to win! Sugar is the 5X World Dog Surf Champ with dozens of local first place finishes.”

Sugar has somehow conquered the ability to lean during a ride to optimize position. She’s discovered the ability to scoot forward to pick up speed or step back to slow down.

So in October 2022, I was asked to photograph an adaptive surfing event at backside Rincon for the Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and the Life Rolls On Foundation at an event titled “They Will Surf Again”. The event, led by the 3X World Adaptive Surfing Champion and 6X US National Adaptive Surfing Champion Jesse Billauer, celebrated 40 adaptive athletes and over 200 volunteers in Carpinteria.

Two of the most devoted volunteers were there, Sugar and Ryan. Together, Sugar and Ryan helped inspire and challenge the kids to push their boundaries, celebrate the thrill and joy of playing in the ocean, and create life achievements and memories. They did a bit of free surfing too.

The adventure of life is a wild ride; challenges, setbacks, mistakes, but it’s also full of courage, beauty, and grace. Keep your eyes wide open and you’ll see the latter daily.

Supporting Sources:

Los Angeles Times 8-20-2021 – Matt Szabo
Orange County Register 6-10-2022 – Heather McRea
Daily Mail 5-27-2020
Life Rolls On Foundation
Instagram: SugarTheSurfingDog


Written by bigwavedave

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