A Gisborne surfer had a scary encounter with an orca last week.
Surfing by himself at the Red Bus break at Makorori, north-east of Gisborne, on Friday morning, former fisheries officer Martin Williams saw a "big, black shape" nearby and thought it was a shark.
"I started freaking out because I was looking for the fin and I could just see this huge black shape about 10 metres away," he said.
"It disappeared, then I saw the orca fin and let out a sigh of relief."
The orca, which was about the length of Williams' 12-foot (3.7m) longboard and a metre wide, turned around and went under his board.
"I was thinking 'this is nice' . . . the orca came right under my board and turned on its side and eyeballed me, then did a couple of circles under the board.
"Again I thought 'that's pretty cool having a close encounter with an orca'."
Then things turned freaky.
"I think it got caught in my 12-foot long leg rope, which creates a big loop under my surfboard.
"Next thing my board is spinning around with a decent amount of G-force.
"At this point I'm starting to freak out. This had similarities to mucking around with Moko the dolphin (who was in Gisborne for a time in 2009) — but on steroids.
"I could see the orca just below the surface, again on its side with its white belly in view."
He released the leg rope.
"Next thing my surfboard was suddenly dragged down from the rear and I was hanging on with only about two foot of the board sticking vertically out of the water.
"And I mean I was seriously hanging on. Then the orca released the board and I'm thinking 'I am not enjoying this encounter anymore'."
The orca again pushed his board in tight circles, which nearly made him fall off.
"Again it reminded me of Moko's antics, but the power and strength of the orca was pretty scary."
Williams turned to the shore and "paddled like crazy".
Jaws theme playing in his head
"After about 30 metres my board was grabbed from the rear by the orca and turned around 180 degrees, then pushed about 20 metres out to sea again at decent speed.
"At this point I was not too sure if I was a plaything or the next best thing to a giant turtle look-a-like dinner.
"Either way, I was not happy."
When the orca released him again he thought about ditching the board and swimming for it, but didn't really like that option.
"So I decided to paddle along the shore, back towards the creek area where about a dozen surfers were surfing.
"I thought they would likely provide a distraction and if something went wrong, I had some support in the water.
"They could also call Search and Rescue if I happened to disappear out to sea being towed by an orca.
He paddled about 100 metres and was pushed and redirected back out to sea by the orca. After another burst of paddling back toward the creek, he received one last push from behind.
"As I looked behind I saw the orca following me just below the surface. After paddling another 200 metres the orca disappeared.
"For some reason the Jaws theme was playing in my head."
When he reached the surfers at the creek, they said they had seen two orca.
Williams said he had been in the water with a group of orca before but with other surfers around.
"When you are by yourself, it's not such a great experience, not when you realise how powerful these orcas are — even the smaller ones.
"It had a nightmarish feel to it. To be honest, it scared the living crap out of me."
As soon as he was back on land, Williams decided he better go and buy a Lotto ticket because he was feeling very lucky.
"I will add this to getting struck by lightning a few years back as a memorable but freaky/scary incident."