Watch This Gigantic Whale Comes Within Inches of Swallowing a Surfer Whole

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: August 30, 2023
© Craig Lambert Photography/
Share this post on:


Key Points:

  • Humpback whales can measure over 60 feet in length and reach 100 tons in weight. They are omnivores that require 2,000 pounds of food a day.
  • The whale in the video is using a technique called lunge feeding which involves the whale approaching the prey from below, opening its huge mouth very wide, trapping the prey inside, and filtering all the seawater back out through its baleen.
  • The humpback whale certainly didn’t intend on scooping the woman into its mouth – it was trying to eat plankton – but she was a little too close for comfort.

When you think about an attack by a sea creature, the first thing that generally comes to mind is a great white with its 300-plus serrated deadly teeth and a killer attitude. Well, as we see from this clip, great whites are certainly not the only hazard in the sea! This surfer is casually floating in the ocean, chatting to some kayakers, when the unbelievable happens! A massive whale rises from the deep and she narrowly escapes being swallowed whole. Let’s take a closer look at what happened.

The Dangers of Humpback Whales!

We learn from the video notes that this lady was sitting on her surfboard in deep water off  Santa Cruz, California. It was filmed by a kayaker who also came a bit too close for comfort to the action! The huge animal that emerges from the water is a humpback whale.

The incident happened in 2011 when a pod of humpback whales had been spotted in this area. The video description explains that they had gathered to feed on anchovies who had, in turn, come to the area to feed on plankton.

2,829 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?
Heaviest Animals: Whales
Humpback whales breach when lunge feeding

©Claude Huot/

There had been warnings that people should stay at least 100 yards from this feeding area (which can be a quarter mile square) because feeding frenzies were likely. A few close encounters had already been recorded. The whales were launching themselves out of the water to scoop up anchovies that they had herded. This is called lunge feeding.

The Giants of the Ocean

Humpback whales are huge! They live for up to 50 years and reach 100 tons in weight. They can measure over 60 feet in length. These giants are omnivores and live off plankton, crustaceans, and fish – 2,000 pounds of food a day! The whale seen here is using a technique called lunge feeding. This involves the whale approaching the prey from below, opening its huge mouth very wide, trapping the prey inside, and filtering all the seawater back out through its baleen. Baleen are bristly plates made out of keratin which is the same protein that our hair and nails are made of. They effectively act like a sieve – they let the water out and keep the food in. Despite having a huge mouth, the whale’s throat is very small so this surfer could not actually have been swallowed. However, she could easily have been dragged under the water and possibly into the mouth of this gigantic animal and that could, in theory, have caused her to drown.

Share this post on:
About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.