Dancing with Dolphins: Killin’ it with the Orcas
The open expanse of sea can be like a mysterious lover, an unexplored treasure, a call into the wild. I am pulled by wide-open natural spaces and drawn to others who share the same longing. It is not surprising that I discovered Laguna resident Rich German. He is known as “the dolphin whisperer” not because he is a new age shaman-type who translates prophetic messages from sea creatures, but because each morning Rich starts his day by heading out to sea on his beloved orange paddle board emblazoned with a portrait of Jimmy Hendrix.
A year ago Rich’s video of his encounter with five Orcas in the wild went viral and then global when picked up by CNN and National Geographic. It was an unexpected gift from the sea for Rich to hang this close with “killer whales”. I wanted to hear more and suggested that we connect over lunch at Madison Square. He countered with, “Sure, but let’s meet at the cove, my second office”.
When I hit the sand, I saw him out on the southern point tracking something along the horizon. As I approached, he glanced my way and then his vision snapped back to sea. Rich pointed and yelled, “Look there’s a whale less than a mile off shore. Check out the spout.” In the sunlight, Rich’s windswept hair and groomed stubble shines blonde and gray. He is fit and handsome and like surfers his skin is bronze even in winter. I find his energy relaxed and conversation effortless.
I felt that same ease when I saw one of his Facebook videos. In that clip the water looks mercurial like silk and quicksilver and the camera angle shows just the tip of his paddleboard while the wide-angle lens picks up the ocean and distant shore. Strong forearms and hands are visible while he works the paddle. The only sounds: his board slipping through calm water. In that video, Rich is quiet as well but for his breath and an occasional chat with a dolphin, “There you are. Come on. Look at you. You’re so cute.”
It was all very zen and watching lulled me into a meditative state. I told him so and he said, “Yeah, the ocean is my church, my sanctuary, my meditation. For me there’s no thought. It’s hard to go through life without thinking all of the time. That’s the goal of meditation, to transcend the mind and stop thought.” Often people ask Rich if the dolphins and whales send him messages, “No messages. Just pure presence. I’m fully present in the moment with them. Nothing else in the world exists but being with them. Maybe that is the message.”
What began for Rich German as recreation has now become a vision to make a difference. By vocation, Rich is a business coach, but this latest wild ride with the sea has become something else entirely. The journey started simply, as a way to take a break in the midst of his work-day. When he discovered the joy of cruising with dolphins and whales everything shifted. “Now” he says, “my vision is to expand what is happening since the Marine Protection Act was enacted and Laguna became a no-take zone. My hope is that people would love the ocean and the life in it so much that they would do anything to protect it just like you would your own child. My whole thing is spreading love and awareness not in a fear-based way. We have the greatest aquarium in the world right here in our backyard.”
Whether he is in it to play or meditate or take a work break, it seems that Rich German is fast becoming a peaceful eco-warrior who is inspiring others around the globe. Rich rocks.
Michele is a practicing psychologist, writer and resident living in Laguna who writes about life in Laguna with a psychological twist and a dose of inspiration. She can be reached at [email protected]