'I could hear the cheers from the outrigger': Canoe crew's close encounter with humpback

A humpback whale rises out of the ocean about 50 metres from a group of six canoeists off Duranbah Beach.Supplied: Jody Tieche

A group of six canoeists have come within 50 metres of a humpback whale rising from the water off Duranbah Beach on the Queensland and New South Wales border.

Annie Ford-Rose was part of an all-female Tweed Coast Outriggers canoe crew on an early morning paddle last Thursday when the photo was taken by a surfer standing on the beach.

"We often get to see them out in the distance but to see them that close was very special," Ms Ford-Rose said.

The outrigger team were lucky to witness the incident as they had just discussed turning around before their close encounter.

Ms Ford-Rose said they were close enough to hear the slap of the whale on the water.

"We were talking about heading back home and thought we'd wait one more time, and to see that come and rise out of the water and slap down like that was just incredible," she said.

'Awesome experience'

What she and the rest of boat crew had not known at the time was the moment had been captured by a photographer from shore.

Jody Tieche had headed to the beach for an early morning surf but swapped his board for a camera when he saw a few whales off the coast.

"I noticed a couple of whales pushing south and noticed the outriggers pushing out through the heads and I was thinking 'oh they're going to pop up any minute now', and lo and behold it was right in front of them," he said.

"I was looking around after taking the photo going 'did anyone see that?

"I could hear the cheers from the outrigger itself on the boat, so awesome experience."

Whales communicating with each other

Griffith University research fellow Dr Olaf Meynecke said the whale's leap from the water in the picture was about more than just fun.

"This is one of the typical behaviours of surface areas called a half-slap and it generates soundwaves in the water that other animals can hear, so they are communicating when they do this," Dr Meynecke said.

He said there had been a number of whales spotted along the southern Gold Coast in recent days.

"At the moment we have the southern migration in full swing, numbers might start to drop in about two weeks' time," he said.

"They are coming from the warmer waters but this could be anywhere from the Great Barrier Reef or even Cairns and they are travelling now towards Antarctica, so they are passing by the Gold Coast but they also stay in the Gold Coast sometimes for a few days."

Dr Meynecke said the humpbacks usually spend two months feeding in Antarctica before migrating north.

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