The Surf Dog Before the Loews Surf Dog Competition

Published July 3, 2012 by Imperial Beach Patch.

On Saturday, dogs and their owners from across the region will converge on Dunes Park in Imperial Beach to compete for the rights to be called champion surf dog, but decades before there was a renowned competition, there were Max and D.C.

David Gordon Chalmers, or D.C. as many of his friends knew him, purchased the runt of a Terrier mix litter in Coronado and named him Max. D.C. worked for the aircraft and aerospace company formerly known as Rohr, Inc. for 15 years, but eventually gave up long work hours to surf, sail and work part-time as a gardener.

“He just said he’d had enough and wanted to be part of the surfer life and he just started surfing,” said his son Scott Chalmers.

The dog started surfing one day in the late 1970s, while out sailing with D.C.

“The dog was barking all crazy on the boat,” Scott said. “And my dad got upset cause he just kept hollering and hollering, and so he threw him on the board and he just stuck there.”

“He did all the things that normal dogs do, like fetching and barking, but when he got out to the water, he wanted to go,” he said.

Over the years D.C. and Max could be seen catching waves in Imperial Beach, Coronado, at Ralph’s near Point Loma, La Jolla Shores and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. In many places it was illegal to have a dog on the beach, and so in order to surf together D.C. would hoist Max and his surfboard in his arms, and carry them both across the sand until they hit the water.

D.C. had a tendency to take special care of the special dog.

When it began to get cold, D.C. had a custom wetsuit made for Max, which was used as a way to keep him from falling off the board.

“Max was falling off a lot so what he did was glue a piece of wetsuit material on the front so Max could hang on with his claws,” Scott said.

On the ride to the beach, “he’d sit in the basket in the front or on the board being towed by the bike in the back.”

A waiter at Coronado Boathouse who they used to surf with regularly saved Max table scraps.

“He’d eat steak and potatoes all the time when he’d go by there so he ate like a king,” Scott said.

The two were featured on the ABC show “Those Amazing Animals,” in multiple issues of Surfer Magazine, and even on a postcard together.

The pair grew very close, and at one point it was tough for D.C. to leave home for more than a few hours at a time, Scott said.

“He didn’t go very many places without him. Most of the time my dad would go and get a beer some place but would only last an hour or two. It was a trip man. It was hard to explain,” he said.

When Max died, Scott said, his father refused to take another dog.

“That was a tough time for my dad too. People tried to give him dogs to help but he said ‘No, I’m good,'” Scott said. “A piece of his heart was broken.”

Max is now buried in an undisclosed prominent location in Coronado, Scott said.

When D.C. passed away in 2007, their “Those Amazing Animals” segment was played on a big screen at the memorial.

“He was one of the originals,” Scott said about his father.

One of Chalmers’ boards can be seen on-display at the Imperial Beach Surfboard Museum founded by the late John Hanks aka Mustang Johnny.

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