SEACREST — After 20 years of living by the beach, Jake Williams has seen all kinds of marine life.
But at exactly 10:09 Thursday morning, Williams and his co-worker, Jake Ritch, spotted a humpback whale. His first whale sighting.
The two Jakes were working beach service at Seacrest when Williams spotted something “really big” out in the water.
“I was like, ‘Dude, that’s a whale,’” Williams said.
The two grabbed a kayak and paddled about a half mile out to the whale. They got within 200-300 yards from the whale before it suddenly popped out of the water, Williams recalled.
“It was just phenomenal,” he said. “It turned around and came to us. It hung out and swam circles around us for about 10 minutes. We were losing our minds.”
“It made 13 years of beach service totally worth it.”
Last month, a humpback whale was discovered 12 to 15 miles offshore in Panama City Beach. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) spokeswoman Bekah Nelson, juvenile humpback whales will head to Florida and stay near shore.
Humpback whales — whose scientific name Megaptera novaeangliae means “big-winged New Englander” — spend the summer months building up fat stores in the rich feeding grounds such as the Gulf of Maine and Gulf of Mexico before heading south to tropical or subtropical waters in the winter months to breed. According to NOAA, they make the farthest migration of an mammal.
Williams estimated that the “ginormous” humpback he spotted was around 35 feet long. He was fortunate enough to remember to shoot video of the experience.
But it’s not likely he would’ve forgotten it.
“It was the best experience of my life,” he said. “There’s a lot of water out there…you never know what to expect.”