Scenes from the Skeens

Ocean Encounters

August 25, 2007 4:57 pm by Dan

Since I’ve written a bit about surfing I should mention one of the best things about being out there is the ocean life you encounter. Here’s a few sketches of things I’ve seen while waiting for the next wave.

– I was out one day and had paddled out a pretty good distance where waves were breaking off Neil Street in Dicky Beach. About 50 feet off I suddenly saw a slick grey back of some large creature break through the surface of the water. In general, big gray things are not a welcome sight for surfers, but with a big sigh of relief I watched as it arched its back and went back under. It was easy to tell from its movement that it was a dolphin. Anyway, I carried on surfing and about 5 minutes later the same fellow popped up about 10 feet away, blasting water out his spout with a loud noise like someone clearing out a snorkel. Spray flew in the air, and with another arch of the back it was gone.

– Another time near the same spot as above, we’d noticed some schools of fish swimming nearby. They are pure silver, and glisten in the light. They travel in packs of hundreds. The waves were big so we were all pretty focused on timing the next set. One fellow gets ready to take off on a wave and suddenly dozens of silver fish leap out of it right in front of his face. We had a good laugh, and to his credit he got over the surprise and still managed to catch the wave.

– An amazingly big school of 2-inch black fish was moving through the water. There were so many, swimming so closely, that it made a black cloud in the water in roughly a circular shape about 15 feet across. Gulls has found them and were diving down, plunging 40 or 50 feet in a nose dive in a big splash, then pulling away from the water, often with a struggling fish in their mouth. So as I’m watching all this the school moves nearer and nearer. Suddenly it’s upon me – I couldn’t have moved if I tried – but of course the fish neatly part around me, leaving about 1 inch between the collective black mass and my body, which then immediately pulls back together once the school moves past. It was an eerie but amazing sensation. Either the school was panicked by all the gulls or they got temporary protection from the birds by being near me, but they came back 3 or 4 times and swam around (it truly feels like they’re swimming through you) me.

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