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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bondi surfer knocked unconscious by whale

Whoosh, up he goes

Bishan Rajapakse, a 38 year old doctor from Bondi, had an unforgettable encounter last Sunday morning that he will never forget. His fellow surfer mate Chris signalled to him to paddle over to see a rare sight inside the Bondi bay - a 40 ft Right whale.

It seemed to be moving in slow motion and when it breached, surfers could see the barnacles and hear the strange noise it made as it moved slowly through the water.  As other surfers moved away, aware of what could happen, Rajapakse kept staring at it when suddenly the whale's tail smashed him in the head.  The last thing he remembers was when he said to the whale, only one metre away from him, "Hey, how's it going?"

Lifeguard Paul Martin said the whale came off the rocks on the south end of the beach.  "It ran into a group of surfers and decided to play football with one of them" he said.

Local surfer Tony Spanos said the victim was thrown about three metres into the air, knocked unconscious and lay face down in the water for about 15 seconds.  "He got heavily smashed and went straight under" Mr Spanos said.  "I dived down and grabbed him and held him up while he was unconscious - there was a guy out there with a big mal, we lifted him on and started paddling back to shore."

Bishan Rajapakse and his girlfriend

On that cold winter morning, there were only about 10 board riders, including two girls, a couple of body boarders and a handful of body surfers who all stared awestruck at the wonderful sight.  "He just kept swimming around and looking at us, he didn't want to go away, he wanted to play with us" one witness said. Someone dove under the water for a closer look and saw the whale's flippers almost dragging on the sand, it was so shallow and he was so big.

Part of the cliff walk

Joggers on the clifftop walk from Bondi to Bronte and those having breakfast at Icebergs had a fantastic view of the rare event.  "It just swam among a group of 15 guys on boards and a couple of swimmers in the middle of the bay and it looked like he was playing with them until - whoosh - up comes his tail and up go the guys" a clifftop witness said.


Mr Rajapaske was taken by ambulance to hospital and thoroughly checked out but went home later that day.  He was not injured and his only complaint was a bad headache.   Shortly after 12.20, the whale moved around Ben Buckler Point and headed north under escort of a police boat and three jet skis.