Watch nail-biting moment when orca swims right underneath paddleboarder

Orca swims under paddleboard in Alaska
(Image credit: Alaska's News Source)

A paddleboarder in Alaska managed to video a heartstopping close encounter with a pod of Orcas that left him – by his own admission – not a little shaken.

Saffron Hayes was paddling in waters near Lena Point, around 14 miles northwest of Downtown Juneau when he had his near miss with up to 10 killer whales.

Hayes admits that he had spotted the orca pod was attempting to get a closer look, he just didn’t expect to get as close as he did. 

“They came and checked me out, and it was really scary,” Hayes told Alaska’s New Source. “Maybe he thought I was a sea lion or something, or just wanted to get real close and look at me.”

The clip ends abruptly when one of the orcas suddenly pops out of the water inches from Hayes’s paddleboard, blowing air out of its spout, clearly taking Hayes by total surprise. 

“I freaked out when he came up,” admits the paddleboarder. “I turned off the camera but two other orcas came by shortly after that I didn’t capture on video… just kind of buzzed right by my paddleboard.” 

According to Hayes, who works for the State of Alaska Division of Public Health in Juneau, the entire encounter lasted between five and 10 minutes and he counted up to 10 orcas in the group. Ideally, paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists shouldn’t approach whales, but it seems that Hayes was intending to keep his distance as he stuck to shallow waters that he didn’t think the orcas would swim into.

But while Hayes may have had his heart in his mouth at the time, in retrospect he thinks the orca didn’t mean to be threatening.

“He didn’t touch the paddleboard, and you know, it was amazing how like, shallow I was. I could see the bottom,” Hayes said, who estimates the encounter took place in water about 10 feet deep. “The orca was so graceful – just coming right underneath the paddleboard and turning around and then coming back and blowing air at me.

“He could’ve easily tipped me or did something to me.”