When a jet skier noticed a mysterious dark shape under the waves, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. And as the shape finally emerged from the water, he could scarcely believe what he was seeing. Luckily, though, he managed to capture the entire encounter on camera.
That jet skier was Dave Lyons, who is actually more often to be found surfing. He has been riding the waves for close to three decades, in fact, and has even won titles for his talent. However, his real passion is sharing his knowledge, and, happily, he can do just that in his role as a qualified surfing coach.
Specifically, Lyons runs a surf school called Boardsilly in Kaikoura, New Zealand. The seaside spot is located on the east of the country’s South Island, and it is famed for sweeping coastlines that offer visitors all manner of marine-based adventures.
What’s more, at Boardsilly, Lyons and his team promise their customers unforgettable surf experiences. That’s principally because the coastal town boasts crystal-clear waters that are home to a vast range of marine life. Indeed, if surfers are lucky, they can watch dolphins, seals and even sperm whales from their boards.
However, in February 2017 Lyons caught a glimpse of some altogether rarer sea-dwellers. The surf instructor had been enjoying a day off from teaching when he heard word of a particular type of creature that had been spotted in the water.
What’s more, one of Lyons’ colleagues at the surf school had always dreamed of seeing this particular creature in the flesh. As a result, Lyons encouraged his colleague and her brother to hit the waves on their jet skis. And what they experienced that day will likely stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Lyons and his friends had headed out on the water in search of the creatures. The sun was shining and the sea was sparkling as they sped across the waves. But just as they began to relax, they noticed an ominous dark object moving in the water below them.
The friends then slowed their vehicles so that they could take a better look at the black mass. But as they did so, a second creature came darting out of the deep right next to them – and the group gasped in disbelief. That’s because the animal was the orca they had been looking for, and it appeared to be following their machines.
Moreover, before the jet skiers really had the chance to take in what had just happened, an entire pod of orcas – also known as killer whales – emerged from the water. One by one, the creatures poked their heads above the waves, spurting water from their blowholes as they did so. And, fortunately, Lyons managed to film the whole scene.
The resulting footage is, in fact, like something out of a Hollywood movie. In it, Lyons and his friends can be heard laughing in disbelief as their entourage of orcas swim alongside them. Unable to contain their excitement, the group exclaim “Oh my god” and “Oh my goodness” as they experience one of nature’s most spectacular sights.
And the encounter was a complete dream come true for Lyons’ staff member. “She had wanted to see [orcas] all her life,” Lyons explained to New Zealand news website Stuff in February 2017. “And what an awesome experience – there were just so many.”
And while the exact number of sea creatures was impossible to quantify, Lyons guessed that there had been about 30 orcas swimming across two miles of water that day. “We followed them about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) off-shore towards Mangamaunu,” he explained.
And the orcas closest to Lyons and his friends appeared to be a family. “There was the mom on one side and the dad on the other,” he told Stuff. “We never got close to him, but he was huge – his fin was enormous. All the pups were playing, it was just so amazing,” he added.
Lyons also told Stuff about the way in which members of the pod would dive underwater for two or three minutes at a time before returning to breach the surface repeatedly. Once – and rather charmingly – the orcas even created a large ring of bubbles in the water while submerged.
In fact, by and large, the pod’s behavior was best characterized as massively playful. Indeed, many of the orcas seemed to regard the group’s jet skis as toys, swirling in the wash created behind the water bikes and frolicking among the bubbles. Lyons and his buddies, meanwhile, couldn’t believe just how close the amazing animals were willing to get.
Then, after their incredible experience, someone from the group posted the epic footage of the killer whales to Boardsilly’s Facebook page. “Boardsilly Surf and Sup Adventures’ day off doesn’t get any better than chilling with the orcas,” read the accompanying caption. “Still can’t believe this just happened! How blessed are we to life [sic] in this place Kaikoura our home.”
More than 25,000 people have since watched the inspiring footage, and the video has attracted many comments from awestruck viewers. “Nothing like a water activity encounter,” John Gill wrote. “Wonderful creatures that leave you in awe and put human life into perspective.”
Putting the encounter further into context, although orca sightings are not unheard of around the Kaikoura Peninsula, humpback, sperm and blue whales are much more likely to be spotted there. In fact, even though the tourism industry in the area is built around whale-watching activities, there are thought to be fewer than 200 orcas in the waters around New Zealand as a whole.
That said, whale watchers can expect to see orcas off the Kaikoura coastline each year from November to March, with the animals usually traveling in pods of up to 20 individuals. According to Whale Watch Kaikoura, each group usually stays together for life, and pods have even been known to develop their own specific communication dialects.
But while lots of people can claim to have seen killer whales in captivity, not many can say that they’ve jet skied alongside a whole pod in the wild. Even Lyons, who spends virtually his whole life in water, couldn’t quite believe his luck. “It was very cool that they actually came up to see us,” he said to Stuff. “Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”