Bow-riding: dolphins catching waves

Common dolphins bow-riding

Common dolphins bow-riding

Bow-riding is one of my favorite things to see on a whale watching trip. If the boat happens to cross paths with dolphins, they almost always take time out to ride the pressure waves created at the front of the boat. It’s thrilling to watch, the dolphins are so close and clearly having so much fun.

According to the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, dolphins have been bow-riding for hundreds of years, “ever since swift vessels plied the seas.” But why do dolphins bow-ride?

As the encyclopedia article explains, some experts have suggested that maybe it’s a faster way for dolphins to travel. But this doesn’t always make sense because many times dolphins ride the waves and then turn around and head back in a different direction. I’ve witnessed this many times. Dolphins are swimming along, then see the boat and swim over to do some bow-riding and then once they’ve had enough, head back to where they started. So it seems they really just bow-ride for the thrill of it.

Dolphins have a knack for enjoying life and having fun. Something to remember the next time you find yourself rushing around; take time out every once in awhile to enjoy the waves!


  1. J Napoli says

    I was on a cruise ship once and went up on deck in the middle of the night…I got an amazing sight when I saw some dolphins “bow riding” and then saw a WHALE beneath them–I don’t know if they bow ride, too, but it was pretty cool!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *