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A California Kayaker Swallowed By Whale Describes The Experience As “Crazy!”

kayaker swallowed by whale

kayaker swallowed by whale

Updated on 7/11/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
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Julie McSorley Claims That She Has Matured Since The Time That She Got Too Close to Humpbacks While They Were Feeding.

Sam Mcmillan, who lives in Atascadero, California, was photographing a kayaker swallowed by a whale “humpback whale” in San Luis Obispo Bay when he witnessed one whale breach the surface directly under a pair of kayakers. Mcmillan was able to get some great shots of the whale. (Image courtesy of Sam McMillan Photography)

After she and her friend found themselves inside the mouth of a humpback whale, Julie McSorley says the experience taught her an important lesson: "Whales need their space."

On Monday morning, McSorley and Liz Cottrill were kayaking together in San Luis Obispo Bay, California, watching the whales feed on silverfish when one of the massive sea creatures surfaced beneath them, toppling their kayak and knocking them into the water. They were able to swim to safety after being hit into the water by the whale.

sea kayaker and a whale

sea kayaker and a whale

Even though other paddlers and kayakers have taken photos and videos showing the two women and their kayak briefly consumed by the whale, the women claim they could not confirm what happened.

McSorley shared with the host of As It Happens, Carol Off, that the experience “has woken me up to the realization that, you know, our place is not in the feeding zone of whales.”

"We didn't think we were that close, but we were right in the area that we shouldn't have been. As a result, I've learned my lesson a lot more than I should have," he -a kayaker swallowed by whale- said.

Warning: the video that follows contains explicit language:

Astonishing Video Of a Kayaker Swallowed by a Whale While Kayaking

Kayakers nearly swallowed by humpback whale in California

Here Is What Happened In Luis Obispo Bay To a Group of Kayakers 

Recently, humpback whales have been seen feeding in the area of Luis Obispo Bay, which is close to Avila Beach, which has brought many kayakers and paddlers to the region.

She asked her friend, who was in town for a visit at the same time as McSorley, if her friend would like to join her for the performance because McSorley had already seen them perform once.

"Her response was, "No, the ocean is not something I enjoy." I have a strong phobia of sharks, and I'm terrified of anything in the water that I can't see clearly, imagining a kayaker eaten by whale.And I, being so naive, foolishly assured her that "Oh, they're never going to dump you over." The kayaks have a high degree of steadiness, and I've never run into a problem before,' "McSorley said.

“As a result, she came along with me despite her reservations just to try something different.”



Kayaking in the San Luis Obispo Bay in California is the subject of this photograph taken by Sam McMillan of Atascadero, California. On the right is Liz Cottrill, and on the left is Julie McSorley. (Image courtesy of Sam McMillan Photography)

The group of friends followed a pair of feeding humpback whales for approximately the first hour of their adventure. They would first observe the schools of fish, also known as "bait balls," from a distance, then watch as the whales came to the surface to eat, wait a few minutes, and then move to the location where the whales had most recently been.

They were enjoying the peaceful ride in their kayak as they waited to see where the next school of bait fish would show up when the small fish began to swim all around them.

"Consequently, I was aware that it was going to be a very close encounter; however, as I mentioned earlier, I'd previously witnessed whales breaching right next to kayaks. Consequently, my thoughts went along the lines of "this is going to be, you know, super cool," "McSorley said.

"And then suddenly the boat lifted, and all of a sudden, we were dumped out into the water very, very quickly, Our kayak swallowed by whale"

kayaker and whale

kayaker and whale

After the whale surfaced in the water between Cottrill and McSorley, Sam Mcmillan of Atascadero, California, took this photograph, which shows a kayak paddle protruding from the whale's mouth. (Image courtesy of Sam McMillan Photography for a whale swallows kayak) 

Cottrill could see the inside of the whale's mouth coming down on them, but at the time, she mistook it for the whale's stomach. She threw up her hand to halt it, panicked and bewildered as she was.

"I'm mulling it over in my head and thinking, "I'm going to push. To put it another way, I'm going to move a whale so we can proceed. It was the most peculiar thought ever. I can't help but think, 'I'm going to die, and I'm dead.' I was afraid that it was going to fall on me. "Cottrill shared his thoughts with the regional Fox News affiliate.

"The next thing I know, I'm drowning in the ocean."

kayaker watching a  whale

kayaker watching a whale

McSorley claims that everything took place so quickly that she can only recall the sensation of the boat rising, followed by the realization that she was below the surface.

"Once we were in the water, we didn't know where we were," she said. "We didn't know if we were underneath the whale or being sucked down with the whales."

"Therefore, the two of us popped up right next to the kayak and next to each other simultaneously. It was crazy."

humpback whale close to a kayaker

humpback whale close to a kayaker

Sam Mcmillan was taking pictures of the whales and was located nearby at the time. When he saw how big the bait ball was, he said, "I just knew I was going to get a good shot." He shared this information with the program As It Happens.

However, it wasn't until he heard people shouting "Are you OK?" that he realized there were also two people and a kayak amidst the school of fish and the whale.

He explained, "I checked on Julie and Liz to make sure they were OK, but it wasn't until I got home and saw the photos that I had taken, where you can see that they were right in the whale's mouth, that I realized just what had happened." “I checked on Julie and Liz to make sure they were OK, but it wasn't until I got home and saw the photos that I had taken,”

According to McSorley, it wasn't until other kayakers came to their aid that McSorley and Cottriel realized they were in trouble.

"They were telling us that you were in the mouth, in the mouth of the whale!" McSorley said. “However, at that time, we were completely unaware of anything. And we didn't fully comprehend it until much later when we rewatched the video.”
  • A kayaker in Florida is currently recovering after being attacked by an otter. "I screamed as loud as I could," the kayaker said. Of course, not like a whale attacks kayak; however, both are extremely dangerous.
  • "We all make mistakes," the woman who got bit by an octopus that she put on her face after putting it on her face said after the incident.
Kayak With Dolphins

Kayak With Dolphins

In the meantime, McSorley has stated that she will not go kayaking again when whales are present unless she can maintain a distance equivalent to that of a football field from the whales.

"I'll kayak in the ocean by dolphins and otters and seals and all the others," she said. "I'll kayak in the ocean by all of them." “However, I believe that the whales require their own space.”


If a person were to be swallowed by a whale, the outcome would likely be fatal. Whales have large and powerful jaws that can crush and swallow large prey, and a human would not be able to survive being swallowed by a whale.

In some cases, kayakers have reported coming close to being swallowed by whales. For example, a kayaker may find themselves in the mouth of a whale, either by accident or as the result of a curious whale investigating the kayaker. However, in these cases, the whale typically releases the kayaker unharmed.

It is important to note that whales are not known to intentionally attack or swallow kayakers. In most cases, whales are gentle giants that do not pose a threat to humans. However, it is always important to exercise caution and follow proper safety guidelines when kayaking near whales, as they are large and powerful creatures that can cause harm if they become frightened or disturbed.

It is also important to remember that whales are protected by law and should not be approached or disturbed in any way. Kayakers should always maintain a safe distance from whales and observe them from a distance, to ensure the safety of both the whales and the kayakers.



Frequently Asked Questions

Can a whale swallow a human?

Yes, whales have the ability to swallow large prey, including humans. However, it is extremely rare for a whale to swallow a human, and such incidents are not well documented.

Would a person survive being swallowed by a whale?

No, if a person were to be swallowed by a whale, the outcome would likely be fatal. Whales have strong and powerful jaws and a human would not be able to survive the crushing pressure of being swallowed.

How do whales usually interact with kayakers?

Whales are generally gentle creatures and do not pose a threat to humans. In most cases, whales do not intentionally harm kayakers and may even approach them out of curiosity. However, it is important to exercise caution and maintain a safe distance from whales.

How can kayakers avoid being swallowed by a whale?

How can kayakers avoid being swallowed by a whale?

Are there any documented cases of whales swallowing kayakers?

There are no well-documented cases of whales swallowing kayakers. However, there have been instances of kayakers coming close to being swallowed by whales, but the whales typically release the kayakers unharmed.

What should kayakers do if they find themselves in the mouth of a whale?

Kayakers should remain calm and avoid panicking if they find themselves in the mouth of a whale. They should also avoid making sudden movements or noises that could startle the whale and cause it to close its mouth. If the whale releases the kayaker, they should paddle away from the whale as quickly and safely as possible.