Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Surfing Dolphins!

Way too cool for words!

I once body surfed in the waves with a pair of dolphins in the Sea of Cotez many, many years ago and the first time I thought they had just gotten caught up in the wave with me; but then they did it a second and a third time. Then when the rest of the guys got in the water with Tom and myself, soon a half-dozen dolphins were taking turns escorting us to shore, sometimes with one of them on each side of us.

Now the Sea of Cotez normally has pretty damn poor surf, but a tropical depression was stirring up the waves big time - so I assumed this change from normal surf conditions is what intrigued the dolphins into joining us; that and the fact we were on a deserted, roadless part of the coast miles from any human habitation so they would have had limited - if any contact with humans - ergo, we ourselves were an oddity worth exploring.

This went on for about 15 minutes when - suddenly - the water was filled with dozens of dolphins jumping and diving all around us and we had to scramble for shore to before they accidentally landed on us. And once we got ashore, there were fins as far as the eye could see as a massive pod of at least 100 dolphins cruised by us and then - they were all gone.

I had totally forgotten about this and I don't think I have ever read or heard of such a thing since - but the linked picture shows ten dolphins - side by side - riding a single wave, so I guess it is not that uncommon.

(ALSO - at the bottom is a link to thirty-six clips of surfing dolphins!)

If there are two 'must do' items on the top of any tourist's agenda for West Australia they are to 'catch a wave' and swim with the dolphins.

There are numerous beaches to enjoy a spot of surfing and few visitors leave without calling in at Monkey Mia, a famous spot north of Perth where the dolphins come close to the shore and rub their noses against humans.

But sometimes the bottle-nosed dolphins that live along the 1500-mile long west Australian coastline like to enjoy time off on their own - and do what humans do.

As these pictures clearly reveal, dolphins enjoy nothing more than catching a wave of their own.

The jolly frolick by no less than 10 dolphins - the 10th can just be seen to the right of the main picture - was captured at a famous dolphin-watching location, Eagle Gorge, in the Kalbarri National Park, 350 miles north of Perth.

There are many other attractions for the tourist, such as watching the whales that occasionally swim by or photographing the multi-coloured parrots that can be seen in bushland a few miles in from the coast.

And there are, of course, the more lazy members of the dolphin family who hang around Monkey Mia, 200 miles to the north, so they can get a pat from tourists who wade into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean to greet them.

But for more adventurous dolphins, there are those magnificent waves to catch, as our pictures reveal.

It is not the first time a whole group of dolphins have been caught leaping over a wave in such a seemingly choreographed fasion, but wildlife experts say the phenomenon is extremely rare - and a sight to behold.

Sometimes, even the less tame dolphins can be enjoying themselves so much that they don't worry how close they come to humans on their surfboards.

On the other side of the Australian continent last week a young woman taking part in the NSW Young Surfer Event lost a number of points when she missed a wave because she was interrupted by two dolphins that took over the water she hoped to grab.

Kirby Wright, aged 16, said: 'It was so freaky out there! Dolphins were everywhere, all around us.

'I paddled for a good wave and there were two big dolphins surfing the wave as well, right beside me almost. I was scared and stopped paddling and missed the wave!'

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