Thursday, September 30, 2004

I'm posting an article from the Newspaper, you can read it online but need to sign up. Fuego or I can delete it later after everyone has had a chance to read it.

The Orange County Register

SAN CLEMENTE – First, there was a noise. The water beneath him began to swirl.

Then something lifted surfer Spyros Vamvas out of the water.

"I was on the back of a whale," said Vamvas, a 60-year-old San Clemente therapist who has been surfing these waters since he was 12. "It lifted me up, almost gently, and then it lowered me down. And I never changed position on my board."

And this is no fish story; there were witnesses Monday morning at Lasuen Beach.

"We were all screaming, 'Oh, my God!'" Mona Ferner said.

"This is once in a lifetime," said her sister, Wendy Yoder.

Yoder and Ferner were playing volleyball when they noticed a California gray whale heading south in shallow water.

"A pretty odd deal," said Tom Kibblewhite, a San Clemente hotel worker who enjoys walking the beach on his days off. "I've seen some odd things down here at the beach, but not like that."

Three San Clemente lifeguards were watching the whale.

"It scared quite a few surfers out of the water," Marine Safety Capt. Bill Humphreys said.

Vamvas was the only surfer left in the surf line as the whale approached, neither party evidently realizing that the other was there. Vamvas was sitting on his board, looking out to sea in search of a wave to ride.

Instead, he found himself riding something else.

"All of a sudden, I just felt, wow, this huge noise and bump," he said, "and it lifted my board up. I'm looking down, and there's just swirling water, and I see barnacles on the back of the whale. I'm used to dolphins. This was different. It was huge."

Vamvas had no idea how big the whale was. Others' guesses varied from 15 to 30 feet.

One thing everyone agreed on was that once the whale set Vamvas and his surfboard back down onto the water, it turned and made a beeline for the horizon.

"As fast as I've ever seen a marine mammal go," Humphreys said. "It looked like the whale was obviously spooked."

Vamvas said that his 6-foot, 10-inch surfboard didn't suffer a scratch, and he is fine except for the middle finger of his left hand, which got pinched between the whale and his surfboard.

If the whale encounter seems like a fluke, it came as no surprise to Mike Bursk, a marine biologist who skippers the R/V Explorer on daily educational excursions out of the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.

Bursk said this is probably the same juvenile gray whale he saw during a surprise encounter last week in Dana Point Harbor.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home