Part of the beauty of surfing happens while waiting beyond the break: The swell rolling beneath you, the wind blowing white curtains from the crests, and those adrenaline charged moments of paddling into the wave. But when you’ve waited for a while, you can’t help but start thinking about the fish swimming beneath your feet.
The orcas appear in casual pursuit of a pod of seals. And with their thick, black neoprene wetsuits, the surfers beyond the break run the risk of being mistaken as a lost member of the seal pod, but it’s not likely.
Wild orca attacks on humans are extremely uncommon. Of those very few attacks, none have been fatal. The whales have earned their killer reputation for the unfortunate instances when captive whales have eaten their trainers at marine theme parks.
Their reputation and traction among popular culture belies the fact that this species faces increasing threats. These particular orcas are likely members of the southern resident population that stay along British Columbia’s coast all year long, and they’ve been included on the U.S. Endangered Species list because of their declining numbers.
These Tofino surfers caught more than good waves that day; they caught a once in a lifetime experience.