GoPro video shot by surfer Thomas Machuca on Wednesday shows some of his experience with a dolphin off Black’s Beach in La Jolla. Machuca has always felt safe in the water, but the close encounter has changed his perspective.
"It’s been sinking in the more I’m thinking how close I really came to a dire situation there -- the end, if you will,” Machuca said.
Machuca said he was paddling on his board at when he found himself face to face with a pod of dolphins.
"I look up and one shoots out of the water face to face with me, about 6 feet in front of me," Machuca said. "So I’m eye to eye with this thing and at this point I don’t even remember too much other than I tried to move my head. Next thing I know it was like somebody hit me with a bat on top of my head.”
Machuca’s head took a beating, leaving him with an open wound. Footage captured on his GoPro shows blood on his head and hands as he bled while paddling to shore.
"Slapped me in the head with his dorsal fin and I’ve got a nice little gash up here with 18 staples in it,” Machuca said.
"Bottlenose dolphins can reach top speeds of between 25 and 30 miles an hour,” said SeaWorld Assistant Curator of Zoological Operations Mike Price. “No surfer is going to be able to get out of the way of a full speed, 900-pound dolphin. Wrong place, wrong time.”
Price said while it’s almost unheard of, incidents involving dolphins swimming into people can happen while we’re in their habitat.
"Because when they get going fast and if they’re not really paying attention, when 800, 900 pounds comes slamming into you, it’s going to do some damage,” Price said.
Meanwhile, Machuca is doing well. Despite his ordeal, he’s chalking it up as a win. For now, he is impatiently dealing with his stitches and the several weeks of healing ahead of him.
"I’m just waiting for my two weeks, waiting for this to heal and then I’m right back down there again,” Machuca said.