Surfer Matt Smolenski Rescues Drowning Dog from Michigan Riptide

Big barks to Matt!!!! Thanks to for this great news! Drowning dog gets surfboard ride to shore Posted by Lisa Medendorp September 12, 2007...



Big barks to Matt!!!!

Thanks to for this great news!

Drowning dog gets surfboard ride to shore
Posted by Lisa Medendorp September 12, 2007

Photo courtesy of Don and Joan Dobbin

The waves on Lake Michigan Tuesday afternoon “were about as big as they get,” surfer Matt Smolenski said.

And the rip current along the Grand Haven pier was “really strong.”

One of those big waves swept a man’s dog off the pier around 2:30 p.m., and it was Smolenski who rode a wave in to save the struggling pet, said off-duty Muskegon Heights police officer Royce Rodgers, who witnessed the rescue.

Smolenski, 25, of Grand Haven “was able to grab the dog’s collar,” said Rodgers. “He put the dog up on his surfboard and the dog rode the surfboard in to shore.”

“When I got to the dog, it wasn’t dog-paddling anymore,” Smolenski said.

While Smolenski said he didn’t know the dog’s owner, he was familiar with the man and his four-legged companion because they regularly head for the pier when the waves are big.

“I’ve watched the dog about a million times. He barks at the waves and then jumps back when they wash up on the pier,” Smolenski said, adding that he was surprised the black and brown mixed-breed animal wound up in the water.

Rodgers said he had taken his own dog, Buster, out on the pier on a leash. He said the man with the other dog, which was unleashed, came out about the same time he did.

But Rodgers said he and his dog stopped about halfway out because “the waves were too big.” The other dog owner, who has a disability, continued on with his pet.

“I was just watching the waves coming up one after another, and I witnessed an especially big wave wash up on the pier,” Rodgers said.

That wave caught the dog owner first and “knocked him off his feet,” Rodgers said, then knocked the dog into the water.

“The dog was trying to swim, but the waves were very large. It was struggling,” Royce said. “The owner was screaming for the dog.”

Smolenski saw the familiar dog owner, then said something to his surfing buddy, Joe Riopelle, 24, also of Grand Haven, like: “Oh man, that guy’s dog went in. I’m going to go for it.”

Smolenski rode in on the surfboard on his stomach, then rolled off the board when he got close to the dog. “I realized I was not going in (to shore) without that dog,” he said. “That dog is that guy’s best friend.”

Smolenski got the 30- to 40-pound dog onto his surfboard and he stayed in the water, fighting the strong current to get to shore.

“I got pretty tired,” he said. “I had a hard time getting in myself.” He was joined by Riopelle, who helped both to shore.

The rescue took “a good five or six minutes,” Rodgers said, adding that he didn’t think the dog, which looked “pretty old,” could have lasted much longer.

Once the rescue party was on shore, the dog’s owner gave the surfer “a high five and said: ‘Thank you, brother,’ then left so fast I couldn’t get his name,” Rodgers said.

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