A curious orca whale surprised a New Zealand paddle-boarder when it popped up from underneath him this week.
Luke Reilly, 27, was stand-up paddle-boarding about 600 feet from the shore in the Coromandel when the small orca spent around five minutes checking him out and swimming around his black and white board, reported New Zealand’s 3 News.
“Then this one beelined for me,” he told 3 News.
At one point Luke says the orca seemed to nibble the end of his board.
Whale expert and founder of WhaleRescue.org, Joe Halliday, told 3 News she doubts it did nibble his board, but was just being inquisitive.
“It looked like [it] was possibly… just coming up underneath the board to have a look, rather than actually nibbling… because if he’d nibbled, that guy would have fallen off the board for sure.
“I just don’t see something that long with a massive amount of body weight coming up and nibbling without the guy falling over off his board.”
But—if you pause 0:12 seconds into the footage, the orca does open up its mouth and sort of bunt the back of his board. He’s thrown a little off balance and the camera hits his paddle. That’s when you hear Reilly yell out: “Hey!”
Was he scared?
Some people told him there were orcas down at the beach, so he put his GoPro in his pocket and went paddling. But he didn’t think anything would actually happen. Then he came face to face with a “killer whale.”
He says he was shaking at the knees.
“I was a bit nervous thinking, ‘what’s this guy going to do?'” he told 3 News. “Then he slowly crept up and grabbed the back of my board and I yelled, ‘What are you doing!?'”
He didn’t catch that bit on film, but when the whale finally swam away, Reilly laughs a nervous, “I didn’t just get eaten” laugh.
It was the sighting of a lifetime for the Kiwi surfer, who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Orcas do travel in pods around New Zealand, and there have been other sightings of orcas at different parts of the coast recently.