When Chester Mackley, 45, took his new puppy to the beach, he was in for a surprise..
It’s early morning on the Jersey coast, and the beach is dotted with surfers readying themselves for the waves. As the morning light dyes the sky pink, and white capped waves roll onto the sand, people eagerly pull on their wetsuits, keen to catch the best waves.
But they’re joined by a surfer who doesn’t bother with a wetsuit. Arguably Jersey’s most famous – and most instantly recognisable – surfer is a glossy-coated dog who comes trotting across the sand, his jaws clamped round the leg rope of a surfboard that trails in the sand behind him.
shoes. Instead, Tico wakes up each morning champing at the bit to hit the surf. Luckily for Tico, his owner Chester Mackley owns a popular surf school on the island, and loves nothing more than taking the cheeky Lab to the beach with him.
"Tico just lives for going in the water," says Chester, 45. "Whether it’s stand-up paddleboarding or surfing, he can’t get enough of it. I’ve owned a few dogs in the past that like water, but none of them have loved it as much as Tico.
"Normally once they’ve fallen under a wave a couple of times they aren’t so keen, but he absolutely goes crazy for it. As soon as he sees you pick up a surfboard he tries to jump on it straight away. He can’t contain himself, he gets so excited."
The Mackley family have had Tico since he was a tiny pup, and first took him out into the water when they’d had him for just a few days. Chester’s eight-year-old daughter Jemima was delighted to see her new puppy, who still had a soft pink tummy and the waggiest of tails, take to surfing like a duck to water.
"From the moment his paws touched the water, he loved it, and Jemima was over the moon," remembers Chester. "She loved telling her friends at school about her surfing dog, and now the pair of them adore surfing together – we’ve even managed to squeeze all three of us on the board before!"
Unsurprisingly, Tico is a big hit with local kids, who call out: ‘It’s Tico, it’s Tico!’ wherever he goes on the island. He also has a lot of fans at the surf school. Students come from around the world to learn to surf with Chester, and having a dog like Tico on hand is an added bonus.
The pooch heads down to the beach with his master, waiting patiently on the sand while Chester runs through the basics on the shore, interrupting only to dig the occasional hole or give a bark or two in agreement. When it’s time to hit the water, Tico’s first in line to splash about. If he isn’t given his own board, he’ll run up and down the waterline frantically wagging his tail.
There’s just one problem to having a Labrador for a surf buddy...
"Tico is obsessed with rescuing people," laughs Chester. "But a lot of the time they don’t need rescuing. If he sees a student splashing in the water, he’ll be straight over there to “rescue” them. It’s very sweet, but he’s a bit inept at it. He really wants to help, but he isn’t sure how and goes into a whimpering frenzy.
"I had an Alsatian who was very good at helping people – he’d gently take you by the wrist and guide you to shore. But little Tico would probably accidentally drown you with his enthusiasm – he even tries to “rescue” the anchor when we take the boat out."
A local celebrity
He might be the king of the surf, but Tico still needs a little help catching the waves. Chester usually paddles out a little way and pushes Tico’s board off into the wave, or the pair will clamber on the same board and surf together. It’s a sight for sore eyes: Ticos’s floppy ears stream behind him in the wind, and he wags his tail constantly while he rides the waves.
Chester also has to give the boards an extra coat of wax to ensure Tico’s paws don’t slip.
"He’s got great balance and he rarely falls off – people can’t believe how good he is," says Chester. "There are a couple of narrower boards that he struggles with, but his favourite soft-top board has great grip."
Given the chance, the Labrador likes to spend the whole day at the beach, but if he does get tired he just swims to shore. Chester knows exactly where the pooch trots off to – a local café where they’re always happy to feed him a sausage or two. Tico knows his way there, so he’ll wander off on his own in search of a treat. Because all the locals know him, he’ll stop to wag his tail at his adoring fans along the way.
"Everyone loves Tico, because he’s so soppy and he makes people smile with his ridiculous antics," says Chester. "I thought it would be cool to have a dog who likes the sea, but I never dreamed I’d have a dog as good at surfing as Tico!"