Pro-surfer Dave Rastovich was here to help save the threatened Maui's dolphin, but in the end it was them who helped him.
Rastovich completed a daunting 350km sea-paddle from Cape Taranaki to Piha today and told an excited crowd of locals that he had had a great experience with the world's smallest known species of dolphin, which is critically endangered.
Auckland-born Australian Rastovich said a pod of Maui dolphins had helped him navigate the notorious Manukau bar.
"When I got to Manukau I had eight Maui dolphins show up. They swam with me and one bumped my board. They gave me the confidence to get me over the bar. It was amazing. There are only 55 left and so eight of them is a seventh of their population," he said.
He had been struck by how caring Kiwis were. "It's amazing. This is how much the people care about this beautiful coastline. I'm so grateful to be here at this special place. There were times when I didn't think the ocean wanted to bring me back to shore.
I'm feeling physically tired and emotional and my shoulder is killing me," he said.
He injured his shoulder at the beginning of the trip when he fell off his board. He tried to catch his board and pulled his shoulder. At times he said he was in some of the roughest seas he had ever experienced.
He encouraged people to make submissions to the Government against proposals to mine seabed off the west coast of the North Island, which he said could further threaten the dolphins.
- Herald on Sunday