Two hundred meters from shore, the subtle undulation of the swell raises and lowers my board, my body half immersed in the cool embrace of False Bay. In the early morning light filtered by a thin mist, diminishing silhouettes speak excitedly. I hear someone shout. Three dozen surfers to my left and right spin their boards away from shore as sleek, black bodies rise against the horizon, quickly slipping below the surface again. Even at twenty meters distance, the site of dolphins is breathtaking.

Some paddle out further. Other sit tall, watching, waiting … hoping. A few are lucky to come within just a few meters of the passing dolphins, to be in the path of these curious creatures. More than once, the dolphins come up just parallel to a surfer, looking briefly before submerging and passing beneath the board. I was told later that if you jump off your board, and just float in the water, you may be so lucky as to be nudged. A test? An invitation?

One passes a half dozen meters from me, and I am deeply moved.

Both times I have experience this, I find unexpected emotion welling up inside, my breath caught on the verge of tears. I do not hold belief these are super intelligent creatures, for little in our study of them says they are more or less than what is needed to survive in their domain. But raw beauty, even if only an interpretation in the human mind, moves me in a magical way.

The next day there were whales breaching a few kilometers off shore, and the third day, seals riding the waves just to the sides of our boards. What a gift, to share this medium with our distant relatives, mammals in various forms.