This is the story of Southern California surfer Ryan Rustan and his dog, Sugar. Ryan grew up in Huntington Beach and comes from a long line of surfers. From an early age, he hung out at the pier and got into a rough crowd of hardcore surf rats.

“I was just always angry,” he explains, mentioning that neither family, the church, nor the ocean “taught me how to love.” It wasn’t until meeting Sugar, an all-white dog he rescued, that he found something needing him. Their relationship set Ryan on the path to healing.

Photo: Kelly Noecker

Introducing Sugar to surfing was never a stunt or something forced. Ryan simply wanted to share what he did with his dog, and that included time in the ocean. He found Sugar to be a natural on the board, with an intuitive sense of balance and the currents.

Photo: Kelly Noecker

They’ve since become legendary characters at Huntington Beach, raising stoke levels whenever Sugar is out in the lineup.

Ryan is keenly aware of the initial judgments people make about his tattoos so he tries to be extra respectful to counteract the rough look he gives off. As filmmaker Kelly Noecker noted, “At first glance, people are often taken back by Ryan’s tattoos and appearance, but after getting to know him, he is a really nice guy. Deep down, Ryan has a huge heart but is just struggling with some hard past times. He’s really focusing on keeping things moving in the right direction.”

Photo: Kelly Noecker

Kelly also noted that after spending a few days with Ryan and Sugar, “I am realizing how fortunate of a life I am living. To have a clear mind and to be able to focus on my passions is a true gift. Unfortunately, not everyone is given the same cards and we need to remember that. Another thing to remember is that a simple life is a good life. Sometimes all you need is a furry friend, a few waves, and some sun to find happiness!”

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