Gisborne surfers were treated to a spectacle this morning as a southern right whale/tohora frolicked in the waves metres away from them.

Wainui Beach resident Ian Ruru captured footage of the whale tossing about in the water on his drone from his home overlooking the surf.

"It is a magnificent mammal," Ruru said.

"It has been out there for hours now, sort of twisting around. I am not sure if it is playing, or what it is up to."

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The whale had been swimming around about 200m from the shore since mid-morning - with two surfers nearby.

"[The surfers] didn't seem fazed by it at all," Ruru said.

The whale was well out beyond the sandbars, Ruru said.

"I've seen pods of dolphins further out, but never whales this close to the coast. It is pretty deep out there, though."

A southern right whale off Wainui Beach, Gisborne, this morning with two surfers in the background. Photo / Ian Ruru
A southern right whale off Wainui Beach, Gisborne, this morning with two surfers in the background. Photo / Ian Ruru

Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Jamie Quirk confirmed it was a southern right whale/tohora, and appeared to be about 8 to 10 metres long.

Tohora are a native migrant to New Zealand and are the only large baleen whales that can be seen from the beach.

Although Wainui Beach was the site of a mass stranding of 59 sperm whales on March 18, 1970, Quirk said baleen whales were less susceptible to strandings.

"Baleen whales don't tend to strand themselves. It is pretty common for them to get this close to the beach."

They tended to get one or two tohora off the Gisborne coast each year, Quirk said.

"It is pretty amazing to see it this close though. They are really spectacular, people travel all around the world to see this kind of thing and we have it on our back doorstep."

During the breeding season in winter and spring, they are mostly found in the waters around the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands but there are occasional sightings around mainland New Zealand.

In July a southern right whale made Wellington harbour its home for over a week, even delaying Matariki fireworks.

There were further sightings of the whales in the region in late August.