Two whale-watchers off Avila Beach in California had a terrifying experience when a humpback overturned their kayak and appeared to nearly swallow them. The women surfaced and shortly after, other kayakers and paddleboarders came to help them and check they had not been hurt.
According to The Washington Post: Liz Cottriel and a friend, Julie McSorley, were paddling in California’s San Luis Obispo Bay, where humpback whales have reportedly been moving into shallower waters in search of food. Those seeking an up-close view are warned by local authorities to, among other precautions, stay away from large schools of fish, because they attract the whales.
McSorley told KMPH: “I saw the big pool of fish, the big bait ball come up out of the water. I saw the whale come up. I thought, ‘Oh, no! It’s too close.’
“The whale was right here in my face, literally,” she said.
“All of a sudden, I lifted up, and I was in the water,” McSorley continued. She was using her phone to take video of the scene at the time, as were others nearby who saw activity by fish and birds and hoped they might soon capture a whale breach, which occurs when most or all of the whale’s body leaves the water.
Some of the other kayakers and paddleboarders came up to Cottriel and McSorley to check on their well-being.
“They thought the whale had the kayak in its mouth,” McSorley said. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the two women were able to paddle back to shore at nearby Avila Beach.