AIMEE Berridge may be a champion lifesaver, but she will never make it as a whale rider.
The 20-year-old New Zealand ironwoman from Caloundra got the shock of her life this week when her board was rear-ended by a humpback whale.
The incident happened only 800m off Mooloolaba Beach during a training exercise.
The close encounter left her with a smashed board and a story she will never forget.
“I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the time,” she said yesterday.
“I wasn't even sure what had happened at first. It knocked me right off. I ended up three metres from my board.
“I remember looking down and seeing this humongous thing pass underneath me.
“I didn't even realise what happened at the time.
“I swam back to my board and saw the back all smashed up.”
Aimee was part of a training squad of 30 from Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club.
They were training for the Nutri-Grain ironman and ironwoman trials to be held on Noosa Beach next month.
When a whale was spotted close by, some of the squad went in for a closer look.
Aimee and fellow competitor Nikki Chapman headed for shore.
As they paddled in, Aimee said she felt a “massive bump” from behind her board.
“For a split second, I thought Nikki ran into the back of me, but then next thing I know I'm flying through the air,” she said.
“After I got hit by the whale I just kept thinking about sharks, I don't know why.
“I felt so much better once I got in past the shark nets.”
The incident happened on Tuesday afternoon.
When a whale was first spotted by the squad, Aimee said it reminded her of another whale of a tale.
In 1999, two-time national ironwoman champion Kirsty Holmes was paddling off Kawana Beach when her ski was also hit by a whale.
“I had literally just finished telling that story to Nikki when it happened to me,” Aimee said.
“We all had a good laugh about the timing once we were back on the beach.”
Kirsty yesterday reminisced on her incident that made the front page of the Sunshine Coast Daily.
“I was paddling towards my squad off Point Cartwright and I was directly in the path of two incoming whales,” she said.
“I turned to the beach to get out of the way, thinking they would go under me, but one surfaced right underneath my ski, and I fell off and landed on the whale.”
The incident is just another moment that binds them together.
Aimee and Kirsty paired up to take on the board rescue event at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships in April.
Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club head coach Michael King, who saw the incident in 1999, was told by Aimee about her experience.
“It's pretty scary that's for sure. Now we can laugh about it but it probably happened so quick,” he said of Ms Berridge's encounter.
“It's a freaky thing but we're out in their water. It is scary.”
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