Goat vibrations: animals teach surfers in California

Sometimes, the goats even surprise McGregor.

On an inflatable surfboard in prime California waters, first-time surfers Rebekah Abern and Elizabeth French paddle out to catch a wave under the watchful eye of their unusual instructor: Chupacabrah, a small black goat.

This one-year-old ruminant is an integral part of their lesson on Pismo Beach, effortlessly demonstrating the relaxed stance necessary to ride through the churning foam.

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“The goat surfed way better than I did,” laughed Abern. “She had the positioning and you can tell she had done it before… you could tell she was digging it.”

“Who gets to surf with goats? It’s like out of this world,” said the 41-year-old tourist from Montana.

Chupacabrah’s presence on the surfboard is the brainchild of two-legged instructor Dana McGregor, who decided a decade ago he would give goats a go.

After all, dogs have been surfing in California for years — they even have their own world championship — but are not quite so steady on their feet.

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An animal that prances effortlessly up and down precarious mountainsides is far better suited to the task.

“They have incredible balance,” he told AFP. “They’ve got those hooves that just enable them to cling to the board.”


McGregor’s relationship with goats could have worked out very differently.

In 2011, he acquired one of the famously hardy creatures to clear the poison oak and other weeds that were choking his mother’s garden.

Once the vegetation was gone, the goat was destined for the barbecue.

But the problem with having a cute animal around — especially one that you’ve named “Goatee” — is that eating them can be quite unappetizing.

“I just got attached to her obviously and never did that,” he said.

That attachment led to the idea of celebrating his birthday by taking Goatee into the surf.

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Armed with a paddle, man and beast climbed aboard a board and headed out into the waves.

“I just experienced heaven on earth, like something supernatural just happened,” said McGregor.

“I was like: ‘Wow, this animal would never have that opportunity to surf.’”

He hasn’t looked back since.

Over the years, McGregor, a former Major League Soccer player, has had a number of goats with which he has enjoyed aquatic adventures.

They’ve also starred in YouTube videos and even two children’s books, with McGregor perhaps inevitably earning himself the local nickname “The Goatfather.”

“My calling is to bring joy to people. And it’s through goats and through surfing,” he said.

“People find inspiration. They’re like: ‘Oh, if a goat can do it, I can do it’.”

Goat riding a barrel

McGregor is a well-known figure in his town of 8,000 people, accompanied almost everywhere he goes by his goats — in a car with the license plate “SRFGOAT”.

In the ocean, the animals are a calming influence for first-time surfers.

“When you’re first starting out, you’re really focused on things like, are my feet right? Am I doing okay?” said Abern, a crop insurance agent by day.

“But then when the goat’s there, she’s just confident and going with it. And you’re like, alright, yeah, I’ll go with it too.”

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Sometimes, the goats even surprise McGregor.

Pismo, a white-haired expert on the waves, managed to stay upright after her owner lost his footing on a two-meter-high wave, continuing her ride solo.

If she could manage that, McGregor thinks one day a goat might just be able to conquer the greatest surfing challenge of them all — a barrel wave, where the swell breaks over the top of the surfer.

Surfing in a tube “is just an amazing feeling,” he said.

“A goat inside the barrel would be epic!”

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