Touched by a Whale…Almost…


This week is looking to be great for downwind runs. East winds are 10-20 mph+ all week and there’s an east swell. I got a chance to do a downwind run this morning in great conditions. I was trucking along and focused on catching bumps when about 20 minutes into the run I heard a super loud blowing sound just to my right. Let me preface that when I get into ‘the zone’ I tune out everything except trying to catch bumps. There can be a boat on my side and I may not even notice it. The sound I heard was loud, close and scared the daylights out of me although it paled in comparison to what made the sound.

I looked over to my right and roughly 15 to 20 feet away was a massive humpback whale. If I took 2 paddle strokes and reached out, I could have touched its back. There were 2 sections of the whale sticking out of the water. This confused me a bit because I couldn’t tell if it was 2 separate whales, or two sections of the same whale. In any case, each section was the size of my Honda Odyssey van and I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. One slap of the tail or a nice jump from the whale and I would be toast.

I was wondering why there were so many diving, tour and fishing boats out in the water today. I kept passing them and thought nothing of it other than I was glad that their businesses had customers in a bad economy. I was thinking later about if the whale jumped out of the water and landed on me and one of the ‘whale watching’ tourists got it on video…what would that look like?

Once I saw the whale I said a number of expletives, got on my knees and paddled as fast as I possibly could to get out of the area while saying a few prayers at the same time. I wish I had my video camera but almost never take it with me when I go by myself. Also, I’m not sure I would have stuck around long enough to get a video because I was just too close to give me any feeling of safety.

We did a downwinder yesterday and Harris Chang got frazzled when he saw an 8 foot shark following him.  I saw him fall and then as I paddled next to him he told me about it. I fell about a minute later and got back on the board so fast that I barely got wet. lol. With that fresh in my mind, today’s experience scared the xxxx out of me but at least it gives a good story to tell.

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4 Responses to “Touched by a Whale…Almost…”

  1. PonoBill 1PonoBill

    a lot of that going on lately. I thought I might have problems with a humpback doing some really wacky and extreme flips at the channel exit in Maliko yesterday. On Saturday I did a paddle with Dave Schultz and we had a pod of whales between us and the beach, and we were only about 50 yards out. the biggest one in the bunch followed Dave as we paddled away and got VERY close–maybe 20 feet behind him–then submerged and ran right under him. Couldn’t have been more than 15 feet of water.

    Friday I had a big Manta Ray run under me. One of the biggest I’ve seen. He poked his wingtips out of the water when he got about ten feet from me and then did one of those big splash things they do sometimes. glad he didn’t do that underneath me. I’m sure it wouldn’t have injured me but I would have needed new boardshorts.

    Congrats on the kid. Very cute little bugger. too cute–are you sure it’s yours

  2. Evan Leong 2evan

    Bill – I like seeing cool ocean life but this was a bit too close for me. I won’t be sad if I never see another whale that close again. Sounds like you guys are seeing a bunch also. Is this just the season they are here or are they always here?

  3. randy 3randy

    Too bad you couldn’t make the run with us yesterday, Evan. I stopped somewhere outside Aina Haina looking for Harris when about 70 yards back I saw the tail of a humpback break water. Less than 2 minutes later, Harris passed that same point. It was pretty cool, if not unnerving. Later, when asked if he saw it he said no. Speaking of being in the zone. I try to tune out everything but the bumps and the end goal. I suppose Harris was doing the same. Funny that you should come out with that episode. I occasionally have this vision of paddling along and suddenly hearing a blasting spout and looking straight into the gigantic eye of that great beast. I would be saying my prayers as well. I guess it’s all part of the intrigue of downwinding. Every turn of the way is an adventure.

  4. Evan Leong 4evan

    Randy – I’m bummed that my cold took me out of commission this week.

    Are you sure that was a humpback and not Harris? Just kidding Harris. I’m back in gear today.

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