Whale Riding Teen Speaks Out

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The teenager was lucky to have escaped injury and the incident could easily have ended tragically.

THE GIST

- The Australian teenager who climbed on a whale's back is speaking out about the incident.

- Sam Matheson claims that he did not realize that it was illegal or dangerous to swim within 30 meters of a whale.

- Harassing protected species carries a maximum fine of 10,000 Australian dollars ($9,890).

An Australian teenager who climbed onto a whale and rode on its back has said he never intended to hurt the animal and had been acting instinctively when he put his arms around the massive sea creature.

Sam Matheson, 14, said he was with a friend at Middleton Beach in Albany south of Perth when he saw the animal not far off the Western Australian coast and decided to take a closer look.

"I swam out to it and put my arms on it, sort of laid against it for about 20 or 30 seconds. I was out of the water from the waist up," the keen surfer told Perth's Sunday Times. "It was like a leather texture, like a really smooth leather, really soft. It wasn't even scary, it was like, 'Dude, it's a whale.'"

The teen said the whale, which he estimated to be about 14 meters (46 feet) long, did not even notice him until he laid on it.

"Then it lifted up its tail, it went under and it pulled me down at bit, but I was fine and I swam back to the rocks," he said.

Matheson said he did not realize that it was illegal or dangerous to swim within 30 meters (98.4 feet) of a whale and that he now regretted his actions.

"If I had known it was illegal I wouldn't have done it," he told the paper.

The story of the teen whale rider made headlines after a witness photographed the boy clambering on the southern right whale, prompting officials to warn the public that doing so was illegal and potentially fatal.

They said the teenager was lucky to have escaped injury and the incident could easily have ended tragically had he been in the way of a tail slap or breaching action.

Matheson was let off with a warning but harassing protected species carries a maximum fine of 10,000 Australian dollars ($9,890) under environmental laws.