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Surf’s up for orca off Makorori

TWO young orca put on a master class for Gisborne surfers yesterday morning as they rode the waves near Makorori Point.

Florian Bub, a German-born surfer living in Gisborne, was checking the waves about midday when he saw them “surfing” at Centres, slightly north of the point.

“There was a big mama and two little ones. The little ones were surfing while the mama was waiting out the back for them. It was amazing.

“They were riding the swell beneath the surface, but would break through occasionally surfing out on the face of the wave.”

Over the past few days there has been a decent north-east swell hitting the coastal surf spots, making for some fun long rides at the Makorori breaks.

Under the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 the Makorori Point to Centres area is listed as one of 17 nationally significant surf breaks.

“The conditions were perfect,” Mr Bub said.

“There was no wind and the water was crystal clear.”

There were no other surfers at Centres, but several people were riding longboards over at the point.

Mr Bub was unable to get a picture of them surfing but followed the orca up to north Makorori, where he took some photos.

Coming around headlandHe hoped to catch them again at Tatapouri but they were taking their time coming around the headland.

“It was the first time I had seen orca, so I was pretty excited,” Mr Bub said.

“The mama’s back fin was massive — it must have been about half a metre out of the water.”

Department of Conservation ranger Jamie Quirk said orca generally started coming to Gisborne around October.

“These are pretty bang on.”

Seeing orca surfing was not uncommon.

“They are part of the dolphin family and we know dolphin often ride waves.

“I couldn’t say if they were doing it for fun, or learning some sort of behaviour to escape certain situations, but it sure looks like fun, doesn’t it?”

Orca tended to make their way around the coast, spending two or three days at a time in areas where they could find food, typically stingray.

Around Gisborne common areas were near the deep water channels at Kaiti Beach and Tatapouri.

In wait for stingrayStingray occupy the reef areas, but when the tide drops they shift into the deeper channels, where the orca are lying in wait.

Mr Quirk said when people saw orca moving up and down the beach they were often herding stingray.

“They can be a bit like sheep dogs. At Turihaua they herd them into the bay, then all hell breaks loose.

“The mother was likely training up the next generation, showing them the hunting techniques.”

No records exist of deliberate fatal attacks on humans, but if people see orca while in the water they should take care.

“We don’t encourage people to jump in the water with them, but if people are in the water and see them just be careful,” Mr Quirk said.

“They are wild creatures and can behave unpredictably.”

Out of the water, he encouraged people to take photos.

“It is great if people see them to get photos, as it helps build up our knowledge.

“It is a spectacular natural event happening right on our back doorstep.”

HUNTING GROUNDS: Three orca were spotted yesterday along the Makorori stretch of coast. Florian Bub, a German-born surfer living in Gisborne, took this picture of them at north Makorori. Department of Conservation ranger Jamie Quirk said they tended to start coming to the Gisborne region around October each year, and would spend two to three days at a time hunting for stingray in areas like Kaiti Beach and Tatapouri. Picture by Florian Bub