Sometimes the most inspiring talents do not come from years of training, but from the deepest of passion. For Ricochet the surfing dog, this has always been the case. After one incredible experience with a young 14-year-old boy who is quadriplegic, Ricochet discovered her passion of surfing and helping others.
“There is something special about her,” said Judy Fridono. “I always say she is an ordinary dog with an extraordinary spirit.”
Judy, Ricochet‘s owner, had originally enrolled her in service dog training as a puppy. However, the young golden retriever had too much interest in chasing birds, squirrels and anything else that moved. Although she was released from the program, Judy didn’t give up on Ricochet’s ability to help and made the decision to give her the freedom to choose what she loved to do.
After seeing a video of Ricochet‘s inspiring story of dedication and love for working with people with disabilities, fundraising for non-profit organizations and putting smiles on thousands of faces, The Surf Channel had the opportunity to interview Judy to hear more about her story.
How did Ricochet begin surfing with people with disabilities?
Judy Fridono: Ricochet was supposed to be a service dog for someone with disabilities, but she had too much interest with chasing birds, squirrels and anything else that moved, so she couldn’t became a service dog. I had to release her from the program, but I still wanted her to still do something special, so I thought about fundraising.
There was a young boy at the time who was fourteen and he was a surfer. He was quadriplegic as a result of an accident when he was a little boy. He was still going through recovery, rehab and such, and I knew that insurance didn’t cover it so I called his mom to see if she would be interested in doing some fundraising for him. My idea was that we could go out to the beach and Ricochet, who was already a surfing dog, would surf on her board and Patrick, the boy, would surf on his own board. They could share a wave, but each be on their own individual boards surfing together. I though we could then use that footage to show people what they had in common.
However, when went out to the beach that day, Ricochet jumped off her board and onto Patrick’s. It was basically Ricochet’s idea to surf with him tamdem. We didn’t have a big enough surfboard with us to accommodate, so somebody ran home to grab one and thet gave it a try. It was as if they had been surfing together forever.
Ricochet has a game plan of her own. Now we call her a SURFice dog that still helps people with disabilities, in a very different way… through surfing.
Did you train Ricochet to surf?
Fridono: No, it’s all her. It’s what she chose to do; she jumped on the board and went surfing. In fact, that first day I remembering saying to the team, ‘I will just have to trust my dog,’ because we have never done this as outreach. None of the kids had ever surfed, so pretty much everyone put their trust in the dog and she went for it.
Since then, she has surfed with quite a few people with different disabilities. It’s her instinct and what she loves. She has total control and is good at what she does.
What is it about Ricochet that touches so many hearts?
Fridono: That’s a good question. There is something special about her… I always say she is an ordinary dog with an extraordinary spirit. She gets in trouble and doesn’t always do what I want her to do, but she bonds with people instantly. I think she gives each person she interacts with a piece of her heart.
Whatever it is that person needs, I think she provides it even if they don’t realize it. She has this sixth sense about her that is able to touch people’s hearts. Even people watching a video who don’t know her are touched. It’s a gift, and not something that I’m responsible for. The only thing I do is make one decision – to allow her to be who she is without any expectations… It’s all her leading this entire journey.
How has Ricochet inspired you?
Fridono: I always say she changed my path almost by default. I don’t know if she was there for the primary purpose of helping me or changing my life, but living her lifestyle has created a change in me and I live very differently [now]. I was always a pessimistic person and thought the world was a dangerous place, with some bad people in it. She taught me that there is so much more goodness than evil, more than you could ever imagine.
Are you concerned that others will try to force their dogs to surf with people?
Fridono: It is a concern, because people with disabilities are relying on you while out on the surfboard. If you’re just wanting to do it because you think it’s cool or something, you could end up with a tragedy… Please surf responsibly.
Do you try to help other dogs find their passion for surfing?
Fridono: Ricochet has taken me on a different journey and keeps me very busy, so I don’t have so much time to do it anymore. I do not train dogs to surf – Ricochet learned on her own! She represents pure individuality. Instead of humans interfering, rather than letting each dog shine for its own qualities. This is her calling, and we encourage people to find out what their calling is, whether it’s with your dog or your child or whoever. Rather than having expectations of them, just let them be themselves and find out what their gift to the world is.
Are there any specific organizations that Ricochet is working with at the moment?
Fridono: She works with quite a few organizations, such as: Life Rolls On, Best Day Foundation and Surfers for Autism. Her video went viral and there was so much attention coming her way, so we tried to redirect the attention to other causes that needed and deserved the promotion. She raises awareness and has raised funds for animal rescues, cancer, K9 cancer… There are about 150 different causes that she has raised money for in 4 years. This past week, she raised her $300,000 and is still raising money.
How can surfing be theraputic?
Fridono: The ocean has a healing element, so just being in the water and being on a surfboard allows people with disabilities to feel a sense of freedom. When on dry land or a wheel chair, they have so many obstacles. They can’t get out there and walk, but they can glide across the water. The emotion I see most is pure joy.