Aerial footage taken over Freshwater Beach, Sydney, shows the moment a group of surfers come just metres away from a large whale.
The group, which breached requirements for them to stay at least 100 metres away from whales, have been accused of "harassing" the creature by locals.
TV news station Nine News captured the footage of the surfers, who were sat on their boards, in its helicopter yesterday morning.
One of the surfers who got particularly close to the animal was forced to beat a hasty retreat when the whale began thrashing around after apparently becoming bothered by the attention.
Local resident Ian Hansen, who witnessed the incident, said that he spotted the whale because it was surrounded by a circle of surfers.
"To be honest they were harassing it a bit," he told Fairfax Media. "They were so close and it had no room to move.
A coastguard boat was seen arriving at the scene as the surfers paddled away from the animal.
Surfers and boats must keep at least 100 metres away from whales, while swimmers are permitted to come within 30 metres of the animals.