16 October, 2014 16 October, 2014

Know Your Fins

Nope, not the ones on your board, the ones that you suddenly see out the corner of your eye, and go “Oh shit! What’s that!?” Here’s a quick guide by millerslocal.co.za to some of the pointy things you could encounter whilst having a surf. So now you’ll be able to identify the ones you can breathe a sigh of relief for, and those you should kak in your wettie for. Thankfully most fins we see are not the kak-in-your-wettie-and-say-your-prayers variety, so let’s start with those:



Definitely the most common fin you’re gonna see in the bay. Easy to ID because of the rake of the fin. That means its shape – kinda like the fin on your board, with a curve to it and the pointy bit angling backwards. These ou’s cruise with plenty mates, so normally that’s the quickest way to get your heart rate to calm down – just look for another fin! More than one fin means they’re friendly fins. Mostly. Unless you’re Shannon Ainslie and have two very unfriendly fins ganging up on you.

They tend to swim then surface pretty frequently so you should see the fin pop up again soon. PE has a resident pod of dolphins that generally cruise south to north in the morning (from Pipe towards Kings) and then north to south in the arvo. Most of the time there’s at least 20-30 of them but sometimes they bring extended family and there can be upwards of 100 shunting past.

Kak-off rating: Starts at 8/10 cos obviously it’s a fin but quickly drops when you spot his mates




These guys are mostly around in summer. They tend to travel in really small groups – normally only 1 or 2, and mostly won’t come too close by as they seem to be kinda shy. Easy to ID cos of their smaller stubby fin sitting atop a hump on their backs.

Kak-off rating: 2/10 cos it’s not a very scary looking fin




Ah, this one you don’t really wanna see. Although supposedly the ones you do see aren’t the ones that are gonna nip you. Cos if they were in attack mode they tend to come at you from under the surface. The fin is pretty distinctive – the classic triangular shape up into a pointy tip, hardly any rake at all – straight up. Generally you’ll see the fin staying above water in cruise mode, whereas dolphins tend to bob up and down. So, if you see a very triangular fin that is staying above the surface…feel free to kak in your wettie!

Whilst trying to stop your heart climbing out your mouth, re-assure yourself that whites hardly ever attack humans. And most of the “attacks” that take place are investigatory more than predatory. Meaning that the sharks don’t have hands, so in order to see what you are they give you a little nip. You have a good chance of surviving an investigatory bite.

What to do? Keep calm (easier said than done). Keep your eyes on it at all times, whilst you slowly make your way back to the beach. Flap around like a demented kook and he’s only gonna get more interested in you. Keeping eye contact is supposed to help, as apparently they prefer the surprise attack. Plus it means you can see what it’s up to and can give it a shove or poke in the eye if need be. All very nice in theory…

Kak-off rating: Off the charts. Wash your wettie with soap ’n water when you get home.

Another way of knowing it’s a shark is if you spot another fin right behind it – that’s the tail!




Seals wanna be sharks when they grow up. Often they’ll just float out there sticking up one flipper which at first glance looks exactly like a fin. Then you realise the fin isn’t moving, it’s just sitting there. For ages. That’s a seal.

Kak-off rating: The minute you realise it isn’t moving you’re cool





This thing’s HUGE! You’re gonna know straight away what it is. They can be between 1-2m tall. However there are very few cases of wild orcas attacking humans, so you should be OK. Just recently a huge guy did a swim-by the Uluwatu lineup in Bali. Any wave is his wave. Don’t drop in.

Kak-off rating: You’re too busy being amazed to kak off.

“Sure boet, you can have the next set, no worries”




This one’s gonna confuse you for sure. He has a legit looking fin, and it can be a good size, up to 1m high. You’re gonna look twice for sure. The fin tends to be long and narrow, which helps with the ID. He’s actually called a Mola Mola. Not common around PE, but they are there.

Kak-off rating: 3/10 cos it has you guessing for a bit


So now you know how to ID your fins it should make for less panic in the water when you see one cruising past! But when in doubt – GET OUT!!!


Go to millerslocal.co.za for more >>

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