When Kakanui surfer Lindsey Rusbatch headed out for his daily surf on Saturday, there was little to indicate it would be anything out of the ordinary.
But minutes after he plunged into the water at Campbells Bay, he found himself joined by a pod of Hector’s dolphins.
It is an experience he has had many times over the years – and he has encountered the same pod several times over the past six months. Just like human surfers, dolphins have been known to ride the crests of big waves, and interact with surfers, as they roll into shore in Kakanui.
“They circle me all the time and generally when I catch a wave, they catch a wave with me,” he said.
But Saturday’s experience was special.
“I was only in the water less than a minute and the mother and the baby, and the two sisters, came out and started following me,” he said.
“Next minute, the little baby one came up behind me and stuck its nose right in the palm of my hand.”
Kakanui surfers know not to touch the dolphins – but this one touched Mr Rusbatch.
“I’m not religious, but I did thank the creator straight away,” he said.
“They want a hand.
“There’s something happening – maybe I’m their voice.”
The number of Hector’s dolphins at Kakanui has been declining – and Mr Rusbatch is one of many local surfers worried about their future if the Government does not extend its restrictions to set-netting and trawling to the Otago coastline.
Kakanui surfers regularly discussed the plight of the Hector’s dolphins and Mr Rusbatch keeps note of his encounters with them in a diary.
Mr Rusbatch has seen them as far south as Waianakarua and as far north as the golf course along the Kakanui coast.