To teach a dog to surf, you first need to get it used to being on a board in the water. It’s best to start off somewhere calm, like the bay.

If your dog takes to the experience, the transition to the ocean should be easy. But as with humans, you need to start small before working up to bigger waves.

And if you’re lucky, your dog might just end up competing at the annual World Dog Surfing Championship.

On Saturday at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, those lucky ones were ready to show off for hundreds of spectators, humans and dogs alike, who lined up along the roped-off sand runway as the first competitors — Samson, Delilah and Carson, in the under-20 pounds category — got ready for their moment in the spotlight.

“Welcome to the 2022 World Dog Championships!” the announcer shouted over the loudspeakers, as the crowd cheered and dogs barked. “Get ready to cheer these dogs on… we’ve got some big waves out there today!”

Sampson catches a wave during the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Sampson catches a wave during the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Justin Katigbak/Speical to The Chronicle

As the dogs ran out to the water with their human surf partners, the crowd followed down the beach, craning necks to get a closer look as the canine competitors mounted waves selected by their people.

Samson, a 14-year-old spaniel, just missed one wave, his tiny body tossed briefly underwater as the crowd gasped. But moments later, he popped up again, still on his board as his owner steadied it. The watchers cheered in relief.

His normally wavy hair drenched and straggly with ocean water, Samson looked toward his owner, tail wagging as the two awaited another wave.

Meanwhile, Carson, donning a yellow life jacket with his name on it and riding a surfboard adorned with his picture, was soaking up all the attention. After successfully riding a wave in, Samson briefly jumped off his board to trot around and look at his many fans before his owner picked him up and brought him back to the water for another round.

Waffles and Baxter pose with their owners, Walker (left) and Bayley Gussler, during the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Waffles and Baxter pose with their owners, Walker (left) and Bayley Gussler, during the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Justin Katigbak/Speical to The Chronicle

“I’m definitely Team Carson,” said one attendee, who identified himself only as Brian. He was in town from the East Coast to visit his family, and when they mentioned the dog surfing contest, he knew he had to go.

“I just thought, ‘I have to see that,’” he said as he watched Carson’s owner waiting for the right wave for his pooch to ride.

But not every dog in attendance was equally excited about the ocean. Waffles, a goldendoodle who matched her owner in a blue tie-dye sweater, started running toward the dry sand as soon as the end of a wave brushed her paw.

“She’s not a water dog!” her owner said.

But for the star competitors — who were judged based on how long they could stay on the board, whether they rode the face of the wave or the whitewash and any bonus tricks they could do — the water was where they were in their element.

Rusty, a 5-year-old bulldog, was waiting as patiently as he could at the top of the sand runway while watching his favorite surfing partner, Skyler, catch a few waves on his own before the two were scheduled to surf together — on the same board — in the tandem portion of the competition.

Every now and then, Rusty, who was already wearing his bright orange life vest, would whine and strain toward the water, glancing up at his owner’s father, Sam Garcia, with pleading eyes.

Waffles the goldendoodle attends the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Waffles the goldendoodle attends the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Justin Katigbak/Speical to The Chronicle

“He’s anxious to get out there,” Garcia said. “A lot of time bulldogs like him don’t like the water, but he can’t get enough.” Rusty has been surfing for about four years, Garcia said.

Garcia’s son John, who owns Rusty, also helps out the other competitors as a spotter, ready to rescue any pups who slip under the waves.

Rusty has a signature style that makes him work especially well with Skyler: He likes to be at the helm of the board and keep it steady, while Skylar is just calm enough to keep the board balanced in the back.

“Rusty really likes to be in control of the board,” Garcia said.

Perhaps the most popular event was the dog and human tandem surf, where dogs rode at the top of very long surfboards with their humans in the back.

One popular duo was 12-year-old Mike Wall and his dog Faith, who together braved the waves as Mike’s dad James waited in the water to help the two when they fell. It was Mike’s first year surfing with his dog, and the crowd went wild every time the two successfully completed a wave.

“Not too long ago, he couldn’t even swim,” Wall said of his son Mike. “This is really great for him.”

Derby catches a wave during the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Derby catches a wave during the World Dog Surfing Championship.

Justin Katigbak/Speical to The Chronicle

Kentucky Gallahue, who lives in San Diego, also surfed alongside his dog — and had fans lining up to take a picture with him and his 10-year-old goldendoodle, Derby. The two sported matching blue mohawks and shiny blue sunglasses.

Gallahue offers lessons for people who want to teach their dogs to surf, but Derby actually learned it himself. When Gallahue moved to San Diego from Atlanta six years ago, he wanted to learn to surf, so he went out to Dog Beach, figuring Derby could play with the other dogs while he rode the waves.

But Derby had other plans — he followed Gallahue out into the water, then hopped on the board himself to ride the wave in. After a few years, Gallahue said, he was a good surfer enough to ride with his dog. Now, they travel for competitions, sell merchandise and work with nonprofits to support therapy dogs.

“I didn’t ever think we’d end up doing this, but it’s been the best thing ever,” he said. “We’re just putting smiles on people’s faces.”

Danielle Echeverria is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @DanielleEchev

Surfing Los Angeles