California’s Surfing Goats
Can Goats Swim? These Ones Sure Can!
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Previously in Secret Life of Goats you’ve read about goat yoga, goat caddies, and even grazing goats on a restaurant roof. Now we bring you the secret life of surfing goats. In beautiful, sunny Pismo Beach, California a small family of goats live the California dream. Quite possibly the coolest goats in the world, Goatee, her son Pismo, and her daughter Grover surf the waves, play ball, hike, and star in YouTube videos.
Goat experts Katherine Drovdahl and Cheryl K. Smith offer valuable tips to avoid disaster and raise healthy, happy animals!
In 2011, Dana McGregor bought a goat to help control the weeds at his mother’s house. The farmer he got the goat from offered to take it back at the end of the project, but Dana had another idea. He was planning a goat meat barbecue with his friends. It was a great plan, but Dana encountered an unexpected problem. He grew attached to the goat and named her Goatee for the little tuft of hair on her chin. Goatee grew so attached to Dana that she cried whenever he left. Soon the unlikely friends were inseparable and went everywhere together, including surfing. People would stop to ask, “Can goats swim?” The answer was obviously yes. The sight of a goat on a surfboard catching waves caught the attention of the media, and Goatee became a local celebrity.
When I asked how he trained the her to surf, Dana responded with his irrepressible humor. “It’s a 21-step process,” he said, then laughed. “No, I literally just got Goatee out the first time I did it. I just picked her up and carried her out there and put her on the board and pushed her in.”
After two years of hanging out and surfing with his goat buddy, Dana had to go out of town. He boarded Goatee. When he got home, she was pregnant. On March 22nd, 2013 the true surfing goat star, Pismo, was born. Pismo’s training started early. “Most goats are naturally afraid of water,” he says. “I got Pismo in at an early age and I just blew up that fear of the water. He would cry and I’d hold him in the spa and just be like, ‘Look, it’s not going to hurt you. Relax.’ and then would just hold him real close.” This goat not only surfs and plays; as a kid he spent a lot of time relaxing in the spa with his best friend.
Dana bought a doggie life vest and had is altered to fit Pismo. “When he was a kid, I’d just pick him up by his life vest and put him on the board. Now he’s an adult and I’ll sometimes say to tourists walking by, ‘Hey, can you help me pick up my goat?’”
One day Dana took Pismo to entertain kids in a lifeguard camp. Afterward they went out for a surf. “I took him out on this big, massive day,” Dana recalls. “I know he can handle it. It’s just huge.” On their first wave, Dana ended up accidentally pushing Pismo off the board. The second wave they caught was the biggest wave they’d ever caught together. Pismo decided he was not going to get pushed off again. He head-butted Dana off the board and rode the eight foot wave by himself. “I remember being in the water and I’m like, ‘No. Oh my gosh. He’s definitely going to wipe out on that one.’ He literally rode the wave all the way to shore.”
In 2014 the goats went back to the goat babysitter while Dana was away. Goatee got pregnant again. She gave birth to the third of the surfing goats, a doeling named Grover. Dana tried surfing with Grover. He recalls, “She just threw her legs out really wide and just braced herself like, ‘I do not want to fall off this board.’ It was pretty funny. So I don’t really take her out very often. She’s more of a scaredy goat. I haven’t found her special talent, her special purpose.”
Goatee is now retired from being a surfing goat. Dana doesn’t know for sure how old she was when he got her, but he thinks she is probably 10 or 11. “She’s in her later years. She’s just watching the next generation rise up.” Despite the fact that it’s been four or five years since she last had a baby, she still produces copious amounts of milk. She is a sweet gentle goat who doesn’t mind strangers milking her and has been used in teaching many people how to milk a goat. “She’s super loving, super gentle, super chill,” says Dana. Dana and his friends believe in raw, wholesome, organic goat milk straight from the teat. He coined the phrase “straight from the teat can’t be beat.”
A Surfing Goat’s Day
Every day is different for these goats. They wake up in their Goat Crib, a little shed in Dana’s backyard. They have breakfast and then usually load into the car and head for the beach. Their car, the Goat Prius, has a goat hood ornament and is wrapped with pictures from the children’s book about Goatee. At the beach the goats graze while Dana surfs. With her two children to keep her company, Goatee no longer cries when Dana goes out without her. Some days at the end of his surfing time, he will take one of the goats out, usually Pismo.
Some days they continue to graze while Dana teaches a surf lesson, and some they may entertain kids doing a surf or soccer camp or just play ball with Dana on the beach. Dana throws a large inflatable ball and the goats will head butt it back to him. “Pismo loves playing ball so I throw the ball at his head and he gets all excited. He could play for like a half hour straight. He just loves that ball. It’s like he comes alive when he hits his head on it. It’s pretty funny. Everyone gets a kick out of that.”
After the beach, the goats usually load back into the Goat Prius and head to the day’s public appearance. The week I talked to Dana, he took them to a local Spanish-speaking school. The kids got to milk Goatee, try her milk, and watch some surf goat videos. Another day they were the main attraction in the One Hour Gilligan Goat Tour along Goatee Trail behind Dana’s house. People hiked with them, played with them, milked Goatee, and made fresh goat milk ice cream.
Some days the goats act as mascots for soccer camp or the main attraction for surf camp. Some days it’s school assemblies, other days making videos with Dana, and some it is just driving or walking through the community meeting people. Recently, Dana stopped at a stop sign and a woman a couple cars behind him get out of her car and run up to him. “She’s like ‘I just saw you guys on National Geographic. I’m so excited to see you. You just made my day.’ It’s so cool, just the excitement it gives people. It’s just a unique thing and I think it brings crazy crazy joy to people,” Dana said.
The Surfing Goat Gang
You can watch videos of the goats, sign up for surf lessons, or buy surf goat gear at surfinggoats.com. Be sure to check out the very cute children’s book Dana wrote called The Surfing Goat, Goatee. “10 years ago I would have never been like ‘Oh, I’m going to have goats and surf with them and carry them around in my car.’ I never would have guessed that I’d be living the goat life.” Dana said, “But I can’t get out of it. It’s like a gang. Once you get in the goat gang you can’t get out.”