Today in "things we can't believe need to be said": wakeboarding on the back of a whale shark is a very bad idea. 

The original video featured in this post was removed by YouTube. Gifs of the action can be seen here.

When photos of this bizarre event first surfaced, we couldn't help but question their authenticity. But it appears they are genuine after all leaving experts completely baffled. This is an extreme case of wildlife harassment, but the behaviour doesn't just pose a hazard to the shark a fact that probably didn't occur to the men in the video.

"My first reaction was 'poor whale shark!' and my second reaction was 'that guy is going to get seriously hurt!'" says Dr. Alistair Dove, Director of Research and Conservation at Georgia Aquarium. "He was very lucky."

Whale sharks are large filter feeders that spend ample time near the surface sucking down plankton and small fish. They're not toothy, or agressive which makes them an easy target for hitchhikers but they are still the biggest fish in the sea, and can turn and dive very quickly. It doesn't take a genius to understand why climbing aboard a (roughly) 9 metre (23ft) animal isn't smart.

"You can get stuck underneath it, you can be hit by a fin... it's just foolish," notes Dr John Carlson, a shark expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Plus their skin is very abrasive to ours," adds Dove. "The safest thing to do is give them a wide berth and just admire their majesty from a distance (at least 10-15 feet, or 4 metres)."  

So why did the shark stay put during the ordeal? The whale shark in the video is feeding, and most likely tolerated its human accessories for the sake of a meal. 

The question on everyone's mind seems to be, "Is this illegal?" And unfortunately, without knowing more about where the video was shot, it's tough to say. "Perhaps that shouldn’t really be the question, though," says Dove. "Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, 'Is this an appropriate way to behave with one of the world’s most incredible animals?'. Shouldn’t we show a little more respect for the magnificence of nature? The animal shown in this video will probably suffer no lasting effects, but that doesn’t make it OK. I hope everyone in the video is deeply embarrassed about their behaviour, because they certainly should be."

We're not sure if the pair were inspired by last year's whale rider, but the do-it-for-a-viral-video mentality seems to be encouraging more behaviour like this. We can only hope readers pass on this very important message: riding wildlife is not cool.

Editor's note: This video was reposted by the No Produce Risa Facebook page. If anyone has information regarding its source, please let us know in the comments below.  

Top header image: Klaus Stiefel/Flickr

2015 01 30 Whale Shark Related Content