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Making a dolphin wave
On almost any given day, in almost any saltwater environment, you will find dolphins. These often misunderstood mammals are among the most acrobatic of all sea creatures, and seem to have a natural affinity to play whenever possible. Some times referred to as the "dogs of the sea", dolphin usually travel together in family groups. Contrary to common belief's, dolphin typically do not migrate, but rather will live there entire life in one particular region. This makes locating them fairly easy.
Federal laws protect dolphin and everyone should become familiar with how to properly observe them, before trying to go and seek them out. NOAA is the federal agency which regulates how dolphin are studied, and protected. They have published a set of guidelines that can be found online.
Dolphin never go to sleep, but rather have the ability to shut down half of their brain at a time. This keeps them in sort of a catatonic state, which enable them to rise to breath, as well as respond to any danger. They are heavy feeders, who can consume up to 50 pounds of fish in a day, so usually when you see them in the wild they are engaged in looking for food.
The key to observing dolphin close up, and getting them to surf behind your boat is to locate them, and take note of the direction they are going. Since it is Illegal to approach the dolphin, you want them to approach you. This is done by slowly continuing in the same direction as the dolphin are heading. Once you have determined that you are on a safe course, begin to adjust your speed and your trim tabs and slowly add just enough power to the throttle to cause the bow to rise.
By keeping the vessel with the bow high at a slow rate of speed, you will begin to notice a wave forming off the stern at the front of the wake. As the wave begins to form, the dolphin will continue to approach and eventually they will be in your wake, providing it has a good breaking wave at the front. Again the key here is a slow rolling wave, which takes maintaining a consistent speed, and direction. The size of the vessel is not as important as finding that "sweet spot" in the throttle which causes the big wave off the stern.
Like a surfer riding a wave, the dolphin use the energy generated by the forward motion of the water to propel themselves almost effortlessly behind the boat. A good wave is hard to resist for a dolphin, as it gives them an opportunity to continue the direction they were going, and play at the same time. They often will begin aerial stunts, leaping out of the water, even doing occasional flips.
Atlantic bottle nose dolphin, as well as the spinner dolphin are among some of the most amazing performers when it comes to their acrobatics. They will many times stay behind a vessel for long distances, playing and carving up the waves. An important tip to remember is to not deviate in your course or speed, unless it is necessary for safety. Remember to always be aware of where other vessels, markers, or any potential dangers maybe, as well as slow speed or no wake zones.
Dolphin surfing is an amazing way to observe these creatures and their incredible swimming abilities. However, following the rules will ensure that both you and the dolphin have a fun filled experience.