Last week, a teenager hitched a ride with a whale shark in the Gulf of Mexico.
by China DeSpain
Categories: Animals, Causes, Video.
Photo: shutterstock

Chance of a lifetime or stupid stunt? That’s the question following a teenager who took it upon himself to swim with one of nature’s biggest creatures.

Last week, 19-year-old Chris Kreis was filmed riding a whale shark in the Gulf of Mexico, a move that has upset animal activists and drawn criticism from some experts, particularly now that the video has gone viral.

The biggest fish in the sea, whale sharks are commonly called gentle giants, since they “filter feed” on plankton as they swim, and are generally harmless to humans. In this case, the shark in question was 30-feet-long and about 50,000 pounds. Kreis saw it swimming near his boat off the coast of Florida, and promptly jumped in the water and hitched a ride, by grabbing the shark’s dorsal fin.

“I decided, you know what, maybe I should go try and swim with him. I might not be able to do it ever again,” Kreis says.

It didn’t take long for the animal to make it clear that it didn’t appreciate the human hitchhiker. Within nine seconds, the fish began to descend deeper, forcing Kreis to let go.

“When I started holding on I felt the whale shark, it started moving itself,” Kreis says. “He began to descend, and if something doesn’t want you on it, you might as well just let it go. It didn’t really want me on there so I let go.”

Although it’s not illegal to ride whale sharks (which are not endangered), it’s not in the best interest of the animal. According to marine biologist Bruce Neill, physical contact with humans can be harmful.

“When people spend a lot of time and [put] a lot of pressure on a fish it takes away that slime covering and potentially has negative health impacts for the fish. Because they are so very large, they could inflict some harm inadvertently,” he says.

ABC News covered the story this week and received plenty of comments from people who were none too pleased with Kreis’s actions.

“Leave wild creatures alone,” said one person. “They’re not there for your amusement. Whale sharks are very gentle creatures and who knows what kind of stress you caused it.”

Another wrote, ”And there you have it! The complete lack of intelligence and conviction for protecting the ocean and all that dwell there.”

Despite the criticism, Kreis doesn’t regret his actions at all. “I would absolutely swim with another whale shark,” he says.

Check out the video below and then let us know what you think.

About China DeSpain

China DeSpain is a San Antonio-based writer and blogger. She loves pop culture, animal rights, health and fitness, international travel, books and wigs. Follow China on Twitter: @ChinaDeSpain

View all posts by China DeSpain →
  • Dave Ryerson

    It’s a titan with skin 6 inches thick. This is like a toddler slapping an elephant in the ass and then PETA freaking out about animal cruelty. It’s probably not the whale’s favorite experience being ridden, but ffs it deals with attacks by killer whales and sharks on a regular basis. It’s not a fragile flower.

    The majority of people armchair-whining about this video are the same ones tossing cigarettes out the window, not recycling, killing every spider they see in their house instead of tossing it outside, and driving a gas-heavy SUV.

  • Endive Gardener

    This was already done by a girl, Kimi Werner over a year ago to much adulation. She recently swam on the back of a great white too, but I guess because she is a pro “sponsored” diver it’s okay, if no harm to the animal is done it can only help to bring attention to the plight theses animals face.

    • lissener

      You’re allowed to own an endangered species if you can document that you use it for education. That doesn’t mean any moron with a bathtub can bring home a baby manatee.

  • Kahuna

    Why dont these activists do something more productive.. they are killing dolphins still in the COVE in Japan and selling the meat as whale in whale restaurants in Shibuya. The Chinese are cutting off fins of live sharks by the thousands… and discarding the bodies to drowned for soup in China.. do something about that … get a movie made where Stallone hunts down and kills ivory traders who are also selling young girls as human slaves in Thailand instead of putting naked girls on magazine covers to save rodents.

  • Vadim Takser

    There is a risk of being hit by the shark’s large tail fin
    or being accidentally sucked into it’s mouth.

    • lissener

      Sounds hot.

  • Ali

    Your telling me this 19 year old kid by grabbing its fin has now endangered this animal? are you delusional? Hey if the whale shark dies from a human touching it for 15 seconds than it shouldn’t live evolution baby.