FLAGLER BEACH - The third yearly running of the Hang 8 Dog Surfing event in Flagler Beach has its date: June 8th, 2024. The competition will take place at the beach near the city's central business area as it has in years past.
The attendance for the 2024 running of Hang 8 may very well be close to or greater than last year's turnout, which brought out visitors in the thousands. Dozens of dogs either surfed in the competition portion or otherwise spent a day at the beach taking in festivities. Several local businesses had vendor tents set up, and the media attention surrounding the event reached both local and national audiences.
The primary organizers of Hang 8 are familiar faces in Flagler Beach: Mayor Suzie Johnston and City Commissioner Eric Cooley. Both Johnston and Cooley, a couple who share their love of dogs, agreed last year that the scope and popularity of the event has exceeded their wildest expectations. Beyond the face-value appeal of the event, the pair have pointed to the traffic it brings local businesses as another major benefit.
In addition to the local commerce impact, Hang 8 raises money for several charitable organizations with dog-focused missions. Last year's event benefited K9s for Warriors, the Flagler Humane Society, and SMART of Flagler County with all of the day's proceeds.
The crowds attending Hang 8 in 2023 were in large part from Flagler County, but also featured a significant portion of out-of-towners. This appeal has not been lose on the county's tourism department, which now features a shot of a dog surfing the Flagler Beach waves as one of its most popular marketing images. The shot has even spent time on a billboard to motorists approaching the Flagler Beach exit on I-95.
Cooley's own dog Wednesday, a chihuahua who seems curiously content flying down the crest of a wave, has become a de facto mascot of Hang 8 since its inaugural running in 2022. Wednesday isn't eligible to the top surfing prize to avoid a conflict of interest (don't tell her that, though), but she's sure to get some of the best rides of the day year-in, year-out.