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Paddleboarder has close encounter with whale off Deep Cove

Orcas made an appearance in Indian Arm off North Vancouver Tuesday
A paddleboarder had a close encounter with an orca whale near North Vancouver's Deep Cove on Tuesday. | nous_nordiques / reddit

A North Shore paddleboarder out for a paddle near Deep Cove Tuesday had a very close encounter with a visiting orca whale.

The local paddleboarder was out in an area frequented by paddlers near where Deep Cove joins Indian Arm when a pod of orca whales appeared.

“He said it was pretty surreal,” said Mike Darbyshire, of Deep Cove Kayak, who knows most local paddlers because many of them take part in races in the area on Tuesday nights.

After the whales made their appearance, they vanished just as quickly, headed back out to Georgia Strait, according to those who spotted them from the North Shore.

“They just kind of went on their way,” said Darbyshire, who added he’s been close to a few whales while on a paddleboard over the years. “You feel pretty vulnerable.”

A group of kayakers on a guided tour of the inlet heard about the whales and had also hoped to spot the orcas, but no luck, Darbyshire added.

Darbyshire said although he’s worked on the water in Deep Cove for the past 15 years, it’s only been in the past four or five years that orcas have been making regular appearances in Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm. He said if he’s lucky, he spots whales in the inlet a couple of times a year.

Most often, whales spotted off the North Shore are Biggs killer whales, which used to be known as transient killer whales.

Biggs whales are mammal hunters, primarily eating seals and sea lions. In recent years they have tended to spend at least part of their time in inland waters of the South Coast, according to whale researchers.

Last year, local kayakers off West Vancouver had a similar close encounter with a pod of six orcas near Eagle Island. Those orcas swam within about 15 metres of their kayaks.

About a week after that, several North Vancouver residents were also treated to the sight of a pod of orcas in Burrard Inlet off Whey-ah-Wichen/Cates Park, swimming towards Indian Arm.

On Tuesday, a local photographer in the area happened to hear about the whale sighting and looked outside just as the whales were passing by. That person said they took up birding as a hobby during COVID and so happened to have a camera with a 600 mm lens at the ready and was able to capture the image from shore.