Date
20 November 2017
Close encounter: Surfers try to get a more intimate look at the southern right off a Sydney beach on Sunday. Photo: Daily Mail
Close encounter: Surfers try to get a more intimate look at the southern right off a Sydney beach on Sunday. Photo: Daily Mail

Surfers harass whale off Sydney beach

Here’s an experience this group of Australian surfers would love talking about over pints of beer, but what they did may not be the best reaction to what they saw.

The swimmers were enjoying the clear water off Sydney’s northern suburb of Freshwater on Sunday when a huge whale — a southern right — strayed near the area.

Footage from a television news network recorded the close encounter, showing the surfers surrounding the whale as it drifted near the surface.

The whale appeared to be in a playful mood, rolling around and splashing its tail. But one surfer had a close shave, swimming away from harm’s path when the mammal made a sharp turn towards him. Others moved away and watched it from a distance, the Daily Mail reported.

According to government guidelines, swimmers should keep a distance of at least 30 meters from a whale, while surfers and boats are required stay about 100 meters away.

Freshwater resident Ian Hansen told Fairfax Media that he saw the surfers surrounding the whale.

“To be honest they were harassing it a bit. They were so close and it had no room to move… If I was the fish I’d be harassed too. It’d move a bit and they’d back off,” Hansen was quoted as saying.

The tension eased after lifesavers warned the surfers over loudspeakers to move away from the whale.

Wayne Frankly, president of the Freshwater Surf Lifesaving Club, said he was worried people were so close to the whale. He noted that a surfer was rushed to the hospital after a clash with a whale of the same breed in Bondi Bay last year.

Southern right whales normally grow up to 18 meters in length and can weigh up to 80 tons.

They have a tendency to interact with humans, and are spotted along the New South Wales coastline at this time of year during migration.

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