Coming face-to-face with an enormous whale shark you wouldn't necessarily think about hopping on its back and going for a ride.
But that’s exactly what Florida teen Chris Kreis decided to do when he encountered the shark – reportedly measuring 9m long and weighing 22 tonnes - while on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico last weekend.
Video footage shows the 19-year-old jumping into the water from his fishing boat and grabbing hold of the shark’s fin as his friends whoop and cheer.
Mr Kreis then rides the huge shark for about 20 seconds before letting go.
The teen later posted the video clip on You Tube.
"When I started holding on I felt the whale shark it started moving itself, it felt the drag and it didn't really want me on there so I let go and that's it," Mr Kreis told TV network NBC 2.
Whale sharks are not an endangered or protected species and riding them is not illegal.
But marine biologist Bruce Neill said doing so could be harmful to both the fish and humans.
"When people spend a lot of time and pressure on a fish it takes away a slime that covers the fish. They need that layer to stay healthy. Losing it potentially has negative health impacts for the fish," Mr Neill said.
Although whale sharks generally fed on small fish and plankton, it could have inadvertently hurt Mr Kreis because of its sheer size, Mr Neill said.
Mr Kreis said he had the ride of a lifetime and had no idea he could have harmed the shark.
“I would jump in if I saw one again, but next time I wouldn't touch the fish,” he said.
Source: NBC 2
Author: Emily O'Keefe