A whale shark rider has gotten the attention of risk-takers, fellow daredevils and others after a video went viral of him swimming with the creature Saturday. Chris Kreis of southwest Florida saw the once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride the whale shark but had to do it quickly to avoid other bull sharks in the area.
The whale shark rider, 19-year-old Chris Kreis, was in the Gulf of Mexico about 30 miles out when he spotted the beast. Whale sharks traditionally weigh nearly 50,000 lbs. and can be up to 30 feet long. Kreis decided to attempt to ride it and have his friend film the experience despite the potential danger.
"When I started holding on, I felt the whale started moving itself. I felt the drag and he didn't really want me on there, so I let go and that's it," Kreis told CBS News. "There were two big bull sharks in the area, so that's why I was kind of hauling back really quickly."
The whale shark allowed him a short ride, but Kreis could sense he wasn't really wanted aboard. He also spotted predators and didn't want to be attacked.
"I decided, you know what, maybe I should go try and swim with him. I might not be able to do it ever again," the teenager told ABC News. "He began to descend, and if something doesn't want you on it, you might as well just let it go."
The biggest type of shark in the ocean, whale sharks feed mostly on plankton and rarely bite humans. Still, Kreis' interaction with the gentle giant could have been harmful in other ways.
"When people spend a lot of time and a lot of pressure on a fish, it takes away that slim covering and potentially has negative health impacts for the fish," said Bruce Neill, a marine biologist. The teen could have been attacked if the whale shark felt threatened, he added.
While daredevils have encouraged Kreis since the stunt, scientists and researchers have decried it even though it isn't illegal. The teen doesn't seem to take the warnings too seriously, though.
"I would absolutely swim with another whale shark," said Kreis.