The phrase “hitting the waves” conjures images of sun-bleached and tanned surfer dudes and gals paddling out to catch the big one in Hawaii or Malibu. Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi in Point Break famously come to mind. Although Swayze was an avid horseman before he passed away, we doubt he ever tried the latest extreme version of the water sport: horse surfing.

Yes, you heard that correctly; it’s where a surfer catches the wave while been pulled through the water by a horse and rider at full gallop (think skijoring, but on the water). According to the magazine Surfer Today, the surfer rides either a traditional surfboard, kiteboard, skimboard or wakeboard. The tow rope is attached to what is described as a “custom saddle” and then the surfer is pulled along near the shoreline.

And in case you don’t live near the ocean, you can compete on dry land, too. (HorseboardingUK Facebook)

Apparently the sport is also known as “horse boarding” and is considered to be a modern version of chariot racing with speeds upwards of 50 km/hour. Once “on board,” surfers can practice tricks. And they don’t have to know how to ride (although Riding 101 and a helmet is highly recommended when being dragged by a horse at full speed). For fans of the sport who don’t live near the water, there are boards specially designed with wheels for being towed on turf instead of surf.

Given the nature of horse surfing you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the invention of some Malibu stoner; it was in fact the creation of a couple of Brits, namely Daniel Fowler-Prime and Matt Smith (not the actor from The Crown), who first attempted it in 2005. Their efforts were captured in the UK tabloid The Daily Mail and from there a new sport was born.

Fowler-Prime began his equestrian career performing riding stunts as part of live acts in the ‘90s, he then formed The Independent Horse, a stunt riding company in 2003 with the goal to bring horse riding into the extreme sport arena and for film shoots. His Independent Horse surf team was the first in the world to ride and tow simultaneously.

Horse surfing made its debut as a competitive sport in La Baule, France in 2006. The discipline’s rules can be found at the British Horse Surfing Association website. Things like maximum course length, riding conditions as well as tools like video analysis for the judges are among the rules. Oh, and the consumption of alcohol is banned during the competition. There are four surfing disciplines that vary according to what board is used, as well as a horse board drag race, with the winner have the best average over the course of the competition, not including freestyle.

All we can say is surf’s up!