A Lesson in Fin Riding Marine Giants

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Have you ever imagined what it would be like to ride a wild animal? Some people dream of riding tigers, or whales, or rhinos. But that’s how they should stay; just dreams. It is one thing to ride a trained animal such as an elephant, however it is another thing entirely to ride on a wild animal, especially fin riding an endangered species.

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Why Fin riding is a bad idea

In the dive industry fin riding is highly frowned upon. If you don’t  know what I mean by ‘fin riding’ it consists of taking hold of the animals fin or grabbing onto it in some way and letting it take you for a ride. The problem with this is that it will stress the animal out and is very dangerous, not only for the animal but for the people involved. In addition to this most large marine animals including the Whale shark, Gigantic Manta ray and many species of whale are endangered. Harming endangered animals is illegal and punishable by law! So don’t touch please.

You may be wondering about the dolphin shows in professional aquariums, the trainers there are often seen riding the animals during performances. These animals are trained for this yes, but it’s still not right. These animals are subjected to horrible conditions. The size of the ocean could never compare to the size of a tank and the training is often very cruel.

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No one wants that kinda stress

Imagine that your walking along, minding your own business, and someone literally just jumps up onto your back. You would almost certainly be thinking something along the lines of ‘what the phoque,’ and you would almost definitely be trying to get them off of you. I know that I would be freaking out a bit. I wouldn’t be sure if this person was trying to hurt me, rob me, or was just messing around. I’d be confused and stressing; animals are no different. An animal is not going to understand that you are just messing around and it’s going to be scared and upset and feel stress. It is not fair to any animal to subject them to this, especially when we are visiting them in their own environment.

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Your Next Move

So here we are, we’ve got a random person hanging on you what are you going to do now? Obviously, try and get rid of them. How do you do that? Well you can wiggle and shake, or you could try reaching back and grabbing or hitting them. Or maybe, you fall backwards on top of them. Wild animals have these same options, and trust me, they are much more inclined and able to hurt you than another human being. A whale, for example, can weigh 1000’s of tons. Imagine getting fin or tail slapped by that much force? Animal riding is dangerous! You do not know how they are going to react, and that animal has every right to attack and protect itself from anyone who would try something as stupid as fin riding.

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It is important to note, that especially in the case of the giant Manta ray (pictured above) fin riding is detrimental to the animal. Mantas skin have a mucosy coating that helps them swim and protects them from bacteria. This coating is removed and damaged on contact and puts the animal at risk of infection. Due to this fact, you should never touch a Manta unless absolutely necessary.

It’s all fun Until…

Let’s go back to where we were standing there minding our own business. So here we are and some dumb bloke decides to jump on you, but what he doesn’t know is that you’ve got a bad leg from a boat accident a few years back. Instead of a funny joke you are on the floor in pain, possibly with severe injury. Many animals get injured in the wild from propellers, other animals, fishermen, ecetera. We don’t know if grabbing on to this animal is going to hurt them. They may have weak cartilage or simply their biological anatomy is not made to drag around a 200 pound diver by the fin. Even if you mean well, Fin riding can seriously injure the animal, and I don’t believe that is anyone’s intention.

Here are a couple more reasons fin riding is dangerous:

  1. The animal may suddenly dive and take you deep. This can damage your ears and/or you may drown.
  2. They may try to jump/breach out of the water, taking you with them before they land on top of you.
  3. You risk getting bitten if riding an animal such as toothed sharks.
  4. If the animal spooks it may swim very rapidly trying to escape, taking you far from where you were. This could result in you becoming lost at sea.

There are So Many Videos and Pictures

Sadly, yeah. There are tons of people doing this and they are ignorant. Maybe they are good people who don’t know any better, or maybe they are pompous jerks who don’t give two sits about anyone but themselves. Either way, fin riding is wrong. In most cases, people are told not to touch or harass the aquatic life in the dive briefings by their professionals, however not everyone listens. Yes, fin riding seems fun and all but it isn’t worth the risk to you or the animal.

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Please be Responsible

If you are out there and you are diving, or swimming, or snorkeling or whatever! Please be respectful of the animals around you. No one wants to hurt these beautiful creatures nor does anyone want to see you get hurt by them. Below are a few simple tips that will allow you to safely enjoy the presence of these animals.

  • Stay calm: of course you are going to be excited, I am too swimming next to a graceful giant, but  if you splash and make a lot of noise it is going to get scared and swim away. Instead take your time relax breath and slowly get closer.
  • If on a boat, don’t use a typical entry; it tends to scare them off. Instead quietly glide or slip into the water.
  • Keep a Safe Distance: Animals like whale sharks, Mantas, and whales are huge animals. Make sure that you always stay far enough away that you won’t get hit by a fin or tail, even by accident. If the animal has a baby stay even further away. Mothers are protective of young and may become aggressive.
  • If you are diving, make sure to maintain good buoyancy control! Often, larger creatures are near the surface where it is most difficult to control your buoyancy.
  • Don’ t Chase: As much as we all wish we could stay with these big beauties for the rest of our lives (or at least I would) don’t chase them if they are trying to get away. Chasing them will only make them hurry away faster and trust me… You aren’t going to catch them.

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The ocean is my biggest passion. As a SCUBA instructor I have a unique opportunity to show people exactly how precious the ocean is.  I aim to inspire others to love and respect the sea through education and diving.

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