A dog can skateboard in the streets, snowboard on the slopes, dock dive and skimboard in a pool—but if he wants to be a real SoCal dude, he’s gotta catch some waves on a surfboard. Our bubba Tillman the bulldog came through on his fourth trip down Colorado Boulevard on the 2012 Natural Balance Rose Parade float, “Surf’s Up!”
Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods has played on the “balance” part of a balanced doggy diet to create firsts every year it’s been in the Rose Parade. Tillman and pals wowed parade-goers in 2009 with their skateboarding skills, awed them in 2010 with snowboarding on the world’s longest float, and blew them away with skimboarding in a clear-walled tank on the world’s heaviest float in 2011. They made history again when they took to the waves on Jan. 2, riding breakers created by American Wave Machines.
Of the seven dogs on the float, Tillman and three of the other bulldogs, Wally, Sully and Rose, had made the trip before, as had Chesapeake Bay Retriever Stanley. Newman, a white-faced bulldog, won his spot in auditions held at the Fiesta float barn, and Norman, the scooter-riding French Sheepdog, was discovered in New York.
Two-legged riders were Dick Van Patten and his son Jimmy Van Patten, Joey Herrick, president and founder of Natural Balance and his family, the dogs and their handlers and a veterinarian.
The photo gallery at left introduces the dogs and gives more details about the 2012 Natural Balance float.
Fiesta Parade Floats brought together Bruce McFarland, president and founder of American Wave Machines and award-winning designer Raul Rodriguez to put together the first-ever moving wave machine. “Surf’s Up!” not only took home the Extraordinaire trophy for Most Spectacular Float, it made a Guinness World Record for the longest and heaviest single chassis parade float. And it was huge.
Most Rose Parade floats come in at 35 to 55 feet. “Surf’s Up!” was 119 feet long and weighed more than 100,000 pounds. Of that, 60,000 pounds was in the 10-foot tank section of the float. That’s a lot of water to be driving on Pasadena streets, especially with the first block after the turn having a steep downhill slope. A spillway was built under the tank to catch any overflow and a pump brought it back into the tank.
Fabricator Dennis Best of Fiesta Parade Floats talked to Examiner about the mechanical specs for the float. The one-piece chassis has three axles and 22 tires. The motor is a Ford 2012 F650 V10 with a six-speed automatic transmission, three-valve engine and super duty power train. A large generator sits at the back with an air motor to push the waves and the pump. The sound system and animation are controlled from the back.
Your Tournament of Roses Examiner was privileged to be allowed on the float at the post-parade Showcase of Floats, and took exclusive video of the dogs riding the waves. To get an idea just how big the float is and see the dogs surfing, watch the video at left. As the float rounds the corner from Orange Grove to Colorado, viewers can see the full length.
The California Highway Patrol weighed the float for Guinness, both wet and dry. Two sets of scales were used on each side of each axle for a total of 22. Best said the Highway Patrol was particularly careful, complaining that last year’s float broke their scale. The unofficial weight tipped the scales 132,000 pounds, Best said.
Ralph’s Racing Engines of Denver, Colorado did the tuning and computer set up, and calculated the weight and pulling speed. While floats only go three to six miles per hour on the 5 ½ mile parade route, they have to be able to do a lot more traveling. For Fiesta floats, headquartered in Irwindale, the trip to the starting line is about 16 miles and takes 4 ½ hours.
Rose Parade floats are piloted by a driver underneath the deck who can’t see the road and relies on an observer to communicate position and speed. The observer is usually under the deck as well, but on the Natural Balance “Surf’s Up” float, he rode in a rather unusual position.
The observer sat in the lifeguard’s chair in front, but he wasn’t watching to see if the dogs needed rescuing. He was eyeing the rose-colored guideline painted on the street, watching the marching unit ahead, giving directions to the driver behind and keeping his hand on the emergency brake.
A float this spectacular requires more than one article. To win an award from the Tournament of Roses requires extraordinary floral work even more than amazing animals and cutting-edge machines. For a look at the underseascape that bordered the float, keep an eye on this column.
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