Sea Kayak Sails

orca-whales-spyhopping_358Over the past thirty years of guiding sea kayaking tours in the San Juan Islands, my groups have had hundreds of encounters with orca whales from our sea kayaks.  This the first in a series describing my Top Ten Orca Whale Encounters of All Time... We were paddling north along the west side when a group of about ten orca whales came up from the south.  We pulled over and enjoyed watching them go by.  After they had passed, we resumed our course.  As we paddled, we could see their dorsal fins a couple of hundred yards ahead and hear their explosive breaths.  Unbeknownst to us, two female orcas dove and came back toward us underwater.  Suddenly ahead of us they both spyhopped a few feet apart (this is when the head, neck and part of the body of the whale jut out of the water in a stationary position).  The first kayak in our group (two teenage girls) tried to stop but by the time they did, they had nudged gently up against the two whales – one six ton orca adjacent to each cockpit.  Time stood still!  The girl in the front cockpit had the foresight to reach out and run her hand down the side of the female orca twice.  She would later recount that the whale’s side was not slimy but firm, and, that each time she touched it’s side, the whale shivered!  After just a few seconds, both whales fell away from the kayak and submerged.  We had all just experienced a most incredible encounter of paddling with orcas in the wild!