Videos capture kayakers and paddleboarder “recklessly” close to whale in Hawaii

Kayekers way too close to whale in Hawaii
(Image credit: Shar Levine / Storyful)

Two videos reveal a hair-raising close encounter when kayakers and a paddleboarders come dangerously – and illegally – close to a humpback whale just off the coast of Puako Beach in Hawaii earlier this week.

The videos were shot by longtime Waikoloa resident Shar Levine, and picked up by news agency Storyful. Local regulations in Hawaii make it illegal to approach within 90m (100 yards) of humpback whales, and that’s for humans’ safety as much as the whales. You really do not want to be this close to a humpback as they can swim a lot faster than you can paddle (learn more wildlife safety tips).

While some commenters on the videos suggests that it looks like the whale has unexpectedly surfaced near the kayakers and paddleboarder (in which case they react as they should be trying to remain as still as possible), Levine vehemently disputes that reading of events.

She tells Storyful that both the kayakers and the paddleboarder stayed in the location for “at least an hour” sparking concern they were deliberately seeking a close encounter. 

“If they had accidentally paddled out and there was a whale encounter, that would be one thing,” she says. “But these people were, specifically were staying in that one spot and paddling just to stay there in the hopes of having that close encounter with the whale. It’s a danger to you, it’s a danger to the creatures, it’s setting a bad example.

“It’s a well-known spot between the Hilton and the Mauna Lani,” she adds. “There’s a channel that goes through that the whales tend to go through. And if you park yourself anywhere between A and B, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a whale during whale-watching season.”