G'DAY MATE: Dolphins don't mind a bit of human interaction when they are out surfing the waves.
G'DAY MATE: Dolphins don't mind a bit of human interaction when they are out surfing the waves. Tashka

FRESH EYES: The real sea world is right here

I RELUCTANTLY dragged myself out of the surf at a quiet coastal corner yesterday to start the working week. I was coming in, ankle deep over a flat rock shelf, and had to pause for balance as whitewater surged up to my knees and gently tried to skittle me.

As the water receded, I saw I wasn't alone on this rock shelf. A crab was just ahead of me, holding on to a small crevice, trying to keep its position. The force of the water drawing back down the shelf was too strong for the little critter, and it was swept back towards me, where it brushed for a moment against my foot before slipping off the shelf and into the surf. I imagine this kind of thing happens often in the daily life of a crab.

It was a nice little moment though, two creatures harmlessly bumping into each other and going their separate ways.

I thought about the nature I'd seen at this beach: The all-seeing pair of Brahminy Kites that sit motionless atop the cliffline; the Pied Oyster Catchers - always a little uptight and on the move; the odd stingray in the shallows; the baitfish balls; terns flying by, each with half a pilchard sticking out of their beak like some kind of fishy cigar; the occasional disconcerting shadow out the back, and of course, the dolphins.

I remember attending a work Christmas party on the Gold Coast several years ago. It was an evening affair at a theme park where dolphins and other sea creatures perform. I went for a stroll and saw the dolphins at rest. Dolphins only ever 'half-sleep' - they need to be conscious to breathe. So they park themselves in a meditative trance of sorts. In the dark and the quiet, away from the party, I could hear them breathe, and wondered if they ever dreamt.

If they did dream, I think they'd dream of a place like this corner of the Clarence Coast, where dolphins are free to surf when they want to (and they clearly love the feeling of riding waves), and be as acrobatic or as passive as they want to be. Cruise with the crew, catch the odd swell. Just be a dolphin.

I'd rather see a dolphin cruise in the ocean than see a dolphin do a triple backflip in a pool, any day of the week.

A few years ago, visiting on holiday, before we moved down here, I had a solo pre-dawn surf at the north end of this beach. Small, glassy waves peeled off a coffee-rock ledge. The clouds were orange and pink, and the water swarmed thick with dozens of dolphins around and below me. They hung around for maybe ten minutes and we shared a few waves together. As we waited in the lulls between swells, I closed my eyes and listened to them breathe.

  • FRESH EYES is a regular column by a newcomer to the Clarence Valley

Get your copy of 52 Discoveries in our Big Backyard. This fun little book is free and available at information centres, cafes, holiday parks and other places humans tend to gather. Call 66430 800 and council can send one out to you.

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