Nags Head, NC
May 31-June 1, 2013
The surfing was good with long, even, small right-handed curlers. The weather was great, although the water was a chilly 66 degrees. The big news though is that I got to paddle my Jackson Fun about a quarter mile off shore with two humpback whales that were feeding on menhaden. Once in a lifetime opportunity and an incredible memory. I got close enough to see the fish in the whale's mouth. It was amazing. There were dolphins all around me as well. Daryl Law of Jennette's Pier took the photos of me near the whales. I consider it my running with the bulls moment. The story was covered locally on the coast in multiple media outlets, as well as in print in the Virginia Pilot and Charlotte Observer. It was on Fox8 news and WTKR in Hampton Roads, on the WFMY facebook page and made the Jackson Kayak page. I was most excited about that last one The photo posted by Jennette's Pier on Facebook was shared over 1400 times. Everyone seems to have two opinions about it, either they think it was an amazing opportunity or they think I was crazy for getting so close in such a small kayak. Personally, I do hope to grow old. But when I do, I am glad I will be able to look back and say "damn, I got to paddle next to a 50 foot humpback whale!"
I spotted the whales while taking an early morning walk with Amy. I already had my boat and gear ready, just in case a nice set of waves came in, so as soon as we got back to the house, I suited up and grabbed my boat. Just as I walked over the dune, one of the whales rose out of the water, really close to shore, just beyond the surfers at the pier. I ran to the water and pushed off. I saw no activity at all as I paddled out and thought I might have missed my chance. I saw a couple of dolphins riding waves on the other side of the pier and started paddling in that direction. I cannot remember what caught my eye out at sea, maybe dolphins, maybe some spray, but I changed course and started paddling hard and steady in that direction. At some point one of the big guys burst out of the water about a hundred feet in front of me. I have not watched my GoPro footage yet, but I think I yelled "WHOOOOOOOO!!!!!" I continued to paddle, trying to keep pace with where I thought they would surface. The menhaden were jumping out of the water and the sea seemed to boil with activity. Dolphins were flipping and jumping all around. The whales would rise to breath, then disappear, only to leap out of the water. I was close enough to see the fish dancing in their mouth. The only time I remember getting nervous was when I could tell that I was floating almost right over one. I could see the pattern he was making on the surface of the water and it was only 10-15 feet in front of me. Other than that, my main concern was staying ready to roll. I was too far out for coming out of my boat to be an option, so I kept a firm grip on my paddle, just in case the dolphins decided to bump me around a little while they were playing. Eventually the whales left and I turned my attention back to shore. I was too far out to make out bodies on shore, but not so far out that I could not easily see the pier and the houses. Definitely farther out than I typically want to be in my playboat, so I paddled back in to do some surfing.
As I got close to shore, I saw great curlers coming in next to the pier. I first stopped by in front of the house to let the family know I was alright, then headed back out to surf. Daryl from Jennette's Pier ran up though and asked me to come back in. He let me know that he had taken some great photos and told me I could drop by later to pick them up. Seeing the whales, that was phenomenal. Having photos of it, well, that was some pretty sweet icing on the cake. I did eventually go back out to surf and had a great time. Not the biggest waves I have surfed, but probably the most uniform. I also enjoyed using the incoming waves to get vertical, that was a new trick for me at the ocean. And I have been on a high from the whale adventure for days now.