Dolphins are seen with some frequency playing in waves and even riding them. Turns out orcas do the same, though they aren’t often caught in the act. This week, however, two lucky photographers were actually able to get some great photos of orcas gliding through the waves.
In New Zealand, Northern Advocate photographer Michael Cunningham was body surfing when he saw a large orca fin and then noticed the twenty-foot creature was surfing waves too. In fact, there was a pod of orcas riding waves. He exited the water, and started taking photos. The results are some of the only very clear images of orcas surfing. (See photos here.)
Orca researcher Ingrid Visser said Sandy Bay could be the only place where orcas surf like they were observed doing recently. (It isn’t clear though if only those orcas engage with waves that way, or if they are the only ones to be seen doing it.)
“They’ll often come right out of the back of the wave and breach out into the trough that follows behind. And that’s really exciting to see as well,” said Visser. (Source: Grindtv.com)
Orcas can weigh eight tons, and are very agile mammals so of course some surfers could be very intimidated to see them in the water when they are close by. However, orcas haven’t ever been tied to attacks on humans, like sharks. So the name killer whale is actually sort of a misnomer.
Mr. Cunningham noted there were a number of scenes that weren’t photographed which were just as touching, or even more so, including a calf riding waves too. Tim Rainger was also on the beach watching the orcas surf and took some very good photos.
Though Cunningham and Rainger didn’t capture video of the surfing orcas, last year in New Zealand a mother orca and calf were caught on video together:
Image Credit: Tim Rainger