The extraordinary sight of a killer whale gliding effortlessly off the Dana Pride's bow was perhaps the premier highlight during last week's rare visit by orcas into Southern California waters.
Killer whales have been documented wake-surfing behind fast-moving vessels in some regions, but the behavior is somewhat rare. It's even less common to see an orca riding a bow wave, as if it were an ordinary dolphin, just feet away from wide-eyed passengers. (This orca, and some of its pod mates, swam to the Dana Pride voluntarily as part of playful behavior.)
"OMG moment!!" reads the Dana Wharf Whale Watch Facebook video description. "Killer whales are next to our Dana Pride, actually bow riding our boat wake – so amazing!" The encounter occurred last Friday off Dana Point in Orange County.
The killer whale is nicknamed Bumper, a 14-year-old male who's part of a family group of transient killer whales scientifically catalogued as the CA51 group.
Bumper (CA51C) was with three other CA51s and six CA216s last week off Oceanside, downtown San Diego and Orange County. Their foray into San Diego waters marked the farthest south transient killer whales have been documented.
These orcas, which prey on marine mammals, are more commonly encountered off Central California.The CA51s are the most frequent visitors to Southern California, though, and typically they're observed preying on sea lions and common dolphins.
They've been described as the "friendly pod" because of their curiosity toward boaters.
"And in a very curious family, Bumper seems to be the most inquisitive," Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a researcher with the California Killer Whale Project, told GrindTV.
Schulman-Janiger named Bumper after he gently bumped the small boat she was on during a close encounter off Los Angeles in 2012. The most gregarious of the CA51s, he once swam to within feet of a boat off Monterey and issued a vocal greeting that was perceived as a hello. (Video posted above).
Bumper and his pod mates were last spotted Friday afternoon off Huntington Beach, where they appear to have been spooked by pilots of jet-powered personal watercraft.
More about orcas from GrindTV