Surfing With Orcas

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.

to-size-JK-for-Global-YODELFor these surfers in Tofi­no, British Colum­bia, a pod of orca whales emerged in shal­low water near the break, mak­ing surf­ing a wave a risky propo­si­tion, at best.

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.