Flying stingray knocks teenager off paddleboard
A FLYING stingray was not quite how an Auckland teenager thought his lazy Sunday paddleboard would end. But he's got the bruise to prove it.
Grady Bower is usually a surfer, but on Sunday his two mates, Thomas Hyland and Tyler Martin, convinced him to go for a midday punt around Omaha Bay.
The trio were about 20m off the beach when the unforseeable happened.
"I was just cruising around slowly and then out of nowhere, I saw a stingray come flying up out of the water over the nose of my board, head-on, straight into me. It hit me right in the stomach and I slipped off the back of the board."
The stingray, which Mr Bower estimated to be about 60cm in diameter, flapped about on the paddleboard momentarily before slipping back into the sea.
He said it took him a split-second to realise what it was and what had happened. Startled and scared about what might have been chasing the ray to make it jump so high, he tried to scramble back on to his board, but the grip pad was only in the middle section so it was slippery and a bit of a struggle.
His mates looked on dumbfounded.
Once he was back on the board Mr Bower pulled his legs together and kept his arms at his sides and went on a hunt for his paddle.
"I was worried about my legs dangling in the water 'cause I was worried about what was chasing it to make it jump. I got my paddle then just lay on my stomach and kind of just paddled in after that."
The Kristin School student wasn't sure he would get back on the paddleboard.
"My mates were saying you could paddleboard for 50 years and nothing would ever happen like that ... Then I'd borrowed my mate's board and I'd only been on it for maybe two minutes and that happened to me.
"I think I'll stick to surfing." Omaha Surf Lifesaving Club captain Kevin Blair said stingrays were common in the bay at this time of year because they sought shelter from being hunted by orca and dolphins. But it's not typical of the species to leap out of the water, unless they are scared.
"I'm not sure he [the stingray] was being chased but he might have thought the board was an orca.
"They're quite big boards, up to 8ft (240cm), so if he's a juvenile and saw something big and black, he would have thought, 'I'm out of here'."