Saturday, July 27, 2013

CA State Fair Championship Series Dock Diving Competition

Photo by Josh Balon

On July 14th, I took Pi to the California State Fair to participate in the Splash Dogs dock diving competition. This was only his second dock diving event ever, and it was being held in a much more crowded environment with a lot of distractions so I wasn't sure how he would do.

It turns out I was the one who ended up having issues with stage fright. Pi gets very excited when he sees other dogs running off the dock, so once he knew what we were there for he was good to go. There were two "splashes" that day, not counting the finals competition, and Pi was entered in both.

For those who are not familiar with the sport of dock diving, each event is called a "splash" and depending on the number of dogs entered, each splash will consist of one or more "waves" or "heats" consisting of around 10 dogs per wave. Each dog is allowed up to two launches off the dock per splash, but only the longer of the two jumps is counted as your final score for placement at the end of the splash. There are five competition divisions: splash (0'1"-9'11"), junior (10'0"-14'11"), senior (15'0"-19'11"), pro (20'0"-22'11") and extreme (23' and above), so the distance the dog jumps will determine which division he/she gets ranked in for that splash. The distance jumped is measured by where the base of the dog's tail enters the water. At the very end of a series of splashes there is usually a finals competition. Only the top ten placing dogs from each splash/wave are allowed to jump in finals.

At his first Splash Dogs event in Hollister, Pi competed at the splash division level, with a long jump of 9'11", just one inch shy of the junior division. Well, this time around having had some prior experience, he was making jumps far outside of the splash division and into the junior division, the most competitive division of all.

Photos by Josh Balon

His first official jump off the dock was short, only 9'6", which was my fault because I only tossed his toy a short distance away from the edge of the dock. His second jump,and the one that was recorded for that splash was two feet longer, I threw the toy further and he jumped 11'8". What I discovered at that point was that Pi was jumping as far as I was throwing his toy. So, my strategy for the next splash was to see how far I could get him to jump based on how far I threw the toy. I had to be careful because his confidence is still building and I did not want to discourage him by throwing it too far.

The second splash started a few hours later and Pi drew the first wave for the second time. I got him riled up and excited about his toy as we entered the dock, and threw it at about 13 or 14 feet away from the dock, which is at the high end of the junior distance division. Sure enough, Pi jumped the furthest he has ever jumped, 14 feet 10 inches, putting him in first place in the junior division and securing him a spot in the finals later that day.

Photos by Josh Balon

The day was quite long, so I wasn't sure how Pi would do once finals came around. He was assigned the last jump in the junior division finals, probably because he had placed first in the preceding splash. I've never been very good at throwing, and I ended up tossing his toy quite a bit further than I should have, which caused Pi to hesitate before he jumped. Even for his second jump he wasn't able to top the 14 footer he had before, and with the lead dog jumping at over 15 feet, Pi had to settle for a fourth place finish in the finals with a jump of 12'6".

Even though he couldn't pull off a longer jump in the finals I could not have been prouder and happier with him that day. We both have a lot more to learn and perfect, and hopefully we will have that opportunity before the summer's end. It is my hope that the weather will stay warm enough that Pi can jump in the Splash Dogs Nationals in Reno this September.

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