ⓘ Horse surfing is an extreme sport invented in 2005. It requires two people, a horse, and a board. Horse surfing involves one person riding either a kite-board, ..


ⓘ Horse surfing

Horse surfing is an extreme sport invented in 2005. It requires two people, a horse, and a board. Horse surfing involves one person riding either a kite-board, surfboard, wake-board, or skim-board, while being towed behind a horse, ridden by a second person, through shallow water, at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. After originating in England the first official horse surfing competition was held in 2006 in La Baul, France, and over the last 14 years the sport has continued to spread internationally. Today there are several international competitions with globally established rules and categories.


1. History

Horse surfing, a modification of horse boarding, originated in 2005 in Cornwall, England. It was the product of innovation when Daniel Fowler-Prime, the creator of horse boarding, was commissioned for a beach trick horse riding photoshoot. Fowler-Prime forgot to bring a mountain board, his board of choice for horse boarding, to the photoshoot, so he asked local surf shop manager Matt Smith to bring a mountain and wake board to the photoshoot. Smith agreed and horse surfing was first attempted. The popularity of horse surfing has continued to grow ever since. The first horse surfing competition was held in 2006, one year after the sports invention, in La Baul, France. In 2008 the first horse-surfing and horse-boarding drag race was held and the number of competitions has grown ever since with, as of 2020, competitions having been held in Dubai, Australia, Taiwan and the USA.


2. Competitions

Horse surfing competitions include multiple rides across four different horse surfing disciplines. The competition winner is determined by the total of points accrued over the four events.


2.1. Competitions Competition area

The competition area requires a 300m stretch of shallow waterfront, which is divided into two main subareas: 1 the preparation and start zone sub-areas – these areas are designed to give the team a space to connect the horse and rider via the rope and for the horse to take the rope tension so the rider is able to stand and 2 the main course area – this area cannot exceed 250m, but it can be made shorter by moving the finish post closer to the start post where required.

An exact breakdown of the course is as follows-

Pre-competition area

- Preparation zone - 10m

- Start zone - 10m

Start Post- competition area

- The course - maximum length 250m

Finish Post - post competition area

- Run off area - 30m


2.2. Competitions Personnel

A horse surfing team is made up of four people and one horse. The two main competitors are the horse rider and the surfer, while the other two team members, the dinghy man and the rope man, are responsible for getting the surfer in place prior to being connected to the horse and connecting the horse to the surfer via the tow rope.


2.3. Competitions Rules and regulations

There are several rules that have been standardised across all official horse surfing competitions:

  • While it is ideal that every team is able to compete under equivalent conditions, horse surfing is primarily a spectator sport and as such it is at the discretion of the chief judge or event manager how much time will be invested in ensuring that weather conditions are comparable for all riders. The decision of the chief judge or event managers decision is final and cannot be contested. While the contest will continue regardless of weather conditions, in the event of severe and/or rough weather a" severe/rough weather provision” may be issued.
  • It is at the discretion of the team if they wish to complete the course right to left or left to right.
  • If a competitor wants to submit a protest it must be done, within 30 minutes of the event in question, in writing. Judges will use official footage to determine the result of protests; no spectator footage will be considered.
  • Re-rides will never be granted is reaction to personal equipment fault, however at the judges decision resides may be allowed in the event of unsafe conditions, rope breakage or other extraneous circumstances.
  • There is a risk associated with participating in horse surfing, as such a competitor must sign a participation contract prior to competing, demonstrating they understand the risks associated with horse surfing. All medical conditions or significant/relevant injuries must be disclosed prior to competing.
  • While a first aid team is required to be present at all times during federation-sanctioned competitions, and rescue crafts must be ready and waiting in appropriate locations to assist riders who are injured during competing, all competitors are still required to wear a life vest that will be effective in ensuring the competitor floats in the event they become unconscious.
  • Disqualification will result if conduct is considered unsportsmanlike, this includes the use of vulgar language, tantrums, not riding to the best of ones ability, consumption of alcohol during the competition, competing under false pretenses, or concealing significant injuries or health problems.


3. Equipment

Horse riding is a difficult sport meaning proper equipment is essential to success. To successfully horse surf there are four key pieces of equipment.


A quiet, beach-trained horse that is fast and fit enough to pull the rider at speeds of 35-40 miles per hour is required.


There are several boards that can be used for horse surfing, including; wake boards, kite boards or skim boards.


3.1. Equipment Horse

A quiet, beach-trained horse that is fast and fit enough to pull the rider at speeds of 35-40 miles per hour is required.


3.2. Equipment Board

There are several boards that can be used for horse surfing, including; wake boards, kite boards or skim boards.


3.3. Equipment Kite boards

There are several different types of kite boards that are appropriate for horse surfing, with each having its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common type of kiteboarding is the twin-tip kite board. A kite board is similar in shape to a wake board but can have additional pads and foot straps. Most twin tip models have a base that curves upwards, channels that direct the water in one direction, increasing maximum possible speeds, either straight or curved sides and square or rounded corners. A light wind kite board is the recommended board for heavier riders due to the large surface area created by a flatter, wider more rectangular shape. A kite surfboard is generally used for kite surfers who wish to surf waves and perform tricks involving a large amount of airtime. A kite surfboard is generally smaller, thinner and narrower than a classic surf board and frequently has an epoxy core.


3.4. Equipment Skim boards

As with wake boards, skim boards come in a range of sizes and thicknesses, each with advantages and disadvantages. Thicker boards are more buoyant, gliding on top of the water, allowing for easier balance, while thinner boards are more sensitive to riders weight changes, allowing for higher speeds and more intricate trick. The type of material used to craft the skim board also affects the style in which it can be ridden, with carbon fiber boards most commonly used by professionals, foam boards most suited to beginners and wooden boards being used by inland riders due to their weight.


3.5. Equipment Modified saddle and tow rope

A custom made saddle that allows for secure connection of a tow rope, as well as a tow rope strong enough to withstand the tension of the rider will be required to horse surf.


4. Locations

Horse surfing is possible in any river, lake, or ocean that is shallow enough for a horse to gallop through while deep enough to allow a rider to be buoyant enough to surf. As horse riding is not permitted or may require a permit in some areas it is important to check rules and regulations before choosing a location. Horse riding on busy beaches is not recommended as people, balls, surf boards, frisbees, dogs, and any other moving objects may spook the horse, resulting in a lack of control and possible injury.

Horses hooves have the potential to do damage to the beach ecosystem. Riders can minimise this damage by staying away from beach dunes, wildlife sanctuary zones, turtle nesting sites and not riding through flocks of birds or near marine life.

For competition training a 300m straight stretch of water sand will be necessary. As of the start of 2020, horse-surfing competitions have been recorded as taking place in Taiwan, Australia, Dubai and the USA.


5. Beach horse riding special considerations

Horse riding at the beach for the first time is a new experience requiring special training of both the horse and rider. It is recommended that before horse surfing the horse is well practiced in beach riding, so it does not to become spooked or anxious. To begin training a horse for horse surfing, it is suggested the first beach ride be at low-tide, at a quiet uncrowded beach front. Each horses confidence with entering the water for the first time will be unique, and it is important for safety of the horse and rider not to force the horse into the water if they have become agitated to a point where the rider does not feel comfortable they have enough control to steer and stop the horse. Having a second rider and horse, who are practiced in beach riding, will help the horse stay calm, and make the training process safer.

Riding on beach sand requires more strength than riding on harder surfaces such as natural trails or race tracks. To reduce the chance of soft-tissue injury or muscle soreness it is best, while the horse is building up their beach fitness, to ride the horse along the firmer sand at the waters edge, take a slower pace, and take rest breaks.

After riding on the beach the horse will need to be properly cleaned to avoid any damage from the exposure to salt water and sand. It is important to rinse the horse all over with clean fresh water to remove any salt that might dry out their skin, and carefully check for any scrapes of cuts. Ocean water can contain infectious microbes so if the horse has been cut or scratched the wounds should be thoroughly cleaned and treated with antibiotics. Sand can be very damaging to horse hoof tissue if they are unshod, hooves will need to be careful checked and cleaned after beach riding to remove all sand. If the horse wears pads it is recommended a space be cut in the middle of the pad, so that sand does not build up.

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