Stunning video shows a blue whale swimming just feet from a paddleboarder

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While paddleboarding off the California coast, Bill Clements had an unlikely visitor swim alongside him for over an hour: a blue whale.

A video shared on Bill Clements Instagram account, @paddlegoat, showed the moment he realized the blue whale was just feet away from his board and the excitement he felt.

“The most AMAZING encounter I’ve ever had while paddling,” reads the video’s caption. “For more than an hour, I paddled with the BIGGEST mammal on the planet!”

Above is an image of a blue whale in the Indian Ocean. A man captured the moment a blue whale swam past him as he paddled.
eco2draw/iStock

According to NOAA Fisheries, blue whales are the largest living animals on the planet and are found in all oceans except the Arctic Ocean.

On the west coast, blue whales from the eastern North Pacific typically overwinter off the coasts of Mexico and Central America. Blue whales with calves are often seen in the Gulf of California between December and March.

Although modern commercial whaling reduced blue whale numbers in the early 1900s, populations began to increase worldwide.

“The primary threats blue whales currently face are ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear,” NOAA Fisheries said.

The video opens when Clements first sees the giant whale swimming beside him.

“Oh my God!” he exclaimed as the top of the whale briefly cut through the surface to spurt out water. “Holy shit!”

Clements expressed his disbelief for the rest of the video as he showed the whale continuing to swim just feet away from him. At one point, the whale swam under his board.

“He’s right below me,” he said.

Plunging the camera underwater, Clements showed viewers just how close the whale was to him.

“The fear was overshadowed by the excitement as I was in awe of being in the presence of this incredible creature,” he said in his caption. “I still have chills!”

Clement wrote to Newsweek paddling out of Dana Point Harbour. He has encountered gray whales, a humpback whale and a minke whale before, but this was his first encounter with a blue whale.

Although there were times when Clements said he was nervous about getting knocked off his board, he said it was a dream of his to see a blue whale while paddling.

He described the whale as “docile” and “friendly”.

Clements said he was about five miles out to sea – a distance he wouldn’t recommend for average paddlers – when he spotted the whale. The two stayed together for about two and a half miles before parting ways.

“After a while, I realized this whale was curious and intentionally stayed around to check on me,” Clements said.

He said he was grateful to have experienced this moment alone without boats, but was surprised at first.

“Maybe it was a coincidence that the whale surfaced next to me the first time,” Clements said. “But after five, six times, it was clear that it was intentional behavior.”

Even now, he says he gets chills when he thinks about the encounter and wants to see what he can do to protect the blue whales.

‘Absolutely amazing’

Viewers were just as stunned as Clements.

“What a ride!” wrote an Instagram user. “So jealous.”

“Absolutely amazing,” wrote another. “And your joy too. Beautiful.”

“What an amazing and moving experience it was,” said one viewer.

This isn’t the first video to go viral of an encounter between man and marine life.

In early August, a video showed a young whale swimming towards and around a canoe.

And right after that, video captured a rare sighting of an ocean sunfish just off the coast of Massachusetts.

In May, a video resurfaced and was shared on Reddit’s “Interesting as F**k” forum, showing the moment a humpback whale emerged from the water at an Alaskan marina.

Updated 9/2/2022, 5:00 PM ET: This story has been updated with comments from Bill Clements and additional information.

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