Emerald Isle, NC Paddleboarding

Emerald Isle NC paddleboarding – Our humpback whale experience

On October 25th, we loaded up our beach truck with some paddleboards intending to find a surf break in Emerald Isle. If you are wondering why I said beach truck instead of truck, picture a 1985 Ford F-150 with rust accents. It’s really more a piece of art than a truck, but I digress. We decided to use the beach ramp at Coast Guard Point because it’s our favorite part of the island. We drove out on the beach to some relatively flat conditions in the ocean. After some scouting, we decided on a break and set out to overtake some monster knee high surf.

The surf proved to be difficult to catch so we opted to get back in the truck and look for a new spot. Before we knew it, we had driven under the Bogue Inlet Pier and were exiting the beach without finding anything to our satisfaction. We unlocked the hubs and headed back towards the point. As we drove west, we were debating whether we should head back out on the beach, or just go home. I missed the light to turn on Coast Guard road so it looked as though we were heading home. There is a small gravel lot just before the Emerald Isle Bridge that I used to redirect us back towards the beach. The ocean was still calling us and we decided to heed its call. Our new plan was to paddle some flat water.

Once we arrived at Coast Guard Point, we noticed a gaggle of surfers on a decent break. We pulled up to watch and considered revising our plan again for a surf session. While watching the surfers I overhead a lady saying, “Look at the whale.” Those four words will immediately grab your attention. We started to scan the water until we spotted a whale just a short distance off of the coast. Another plan for our day formed in that instant. We started the truck and drove to the east to try to get a closer look at the whale. We stopped when we could see the whale to the south of us, or directly off of the beach from where we were. Once we paddled out enough to be in line with where the whale was, we found it was about 200 yards east of us. We tried to paddle after it, but it turns out whales are fast and we couldn’t catch it. We decided to head back into the beach and drive further east to get ahead of it and then paddle out.

As we drove down the beach in search of our new friend, it was easy to see its progress because of all of the people pointing. We followed all of the pointing fingers until the fingers went from pointing east, to pointing south, then to pointing west. Once they were pointing west, we knew we were ahead of the whale. We jumped out of the truck like gangbusters and grabbled our boards and paddles. At the last minute, I decided to stuff my cell phone in the top of my wetsuit, even though it was not waterproof. Just like the saying goes, “whales are worth the risk of ruining your cell phone.” It’s actually a saying I just made up, but its true! We threw our boards in the water, paddled through a small break, and were on the way to greet this beautiful creature.

Having positioned ourselves the correct distance off of the beach, the first thing we noticed coming at us was a large pod of dolphins. They were leading the whale parade and playing around in the surf. We were awestruck by this experience and both of our hearts were pounding out of our chests. The thought that kept coming into my mind was, “is this real?” Before long we found out it certainly was real. We saw the whale’s blow hole about 50 yards to the west of us. It was heading in our direction surrounded by dolphins. The gang of dolphins had soon passed us and the humpback whale surfaced about 20 ft. from us. It was between the beach and us and we were standing on water with this surreal feeling. It soon surfaced ahead of us and we decided to paddle along as part of the whale gang.

In total, we followed the whale for about one mile. While we were out there, the whale had breached the surface of the water three different times. It came shooting out of the water with its mouth wide open. You could see fish in its mouth, falling off of its body, and otherwise trying to get away. We followed just behind so we would not get in its path and become an accidental part of its meal. While we moved down the beach with the whale, the sun set at our backs and a full moon rose in front of us. The scene that surrounded us was something you would see in a children’s book. The book would be titled, “The adventure of the humpback whale and his paddleboarding friends.” The picture of the scene would be (and actually was) two paddleboarders heading down the beach with a pod of dolphins and a whale. The sun and the moon were in line with each other and everything in life was perfect. At this point, we could say, “The end.”

We continued to follow the whale until we reached Bogue Inlet Peir. We stopped there with the feeling that we had been blessed with something that could not be put into words. We looked at the pier and there in front of us were crowds of people looking out over us, possibly thinking, “get out of our shot of the whale.” Its also possible they were thinking, “what an amazing opportunity it is to be a part of this experience.” I will choose to believe they were thinking the latter. What else could you think if you were blessed with the opportunity that we all were on that day?

Upon reflection of this experience, I realized a few things. We were on our way off of the island because we had made plans to meet some friends for dinner that night. We would have likely just relaxed and did everyday things until it was time to meet our friends. I wondered how many opportunities I have missed because I decided to go and do something I always do, instead of stepping outside and pursuing the adventure. I know that the next TV episode will always be there to watch. The question is, will that TV episode make an impression on my life? This experience has changed me to a certain degree. It has opened me up to all of those beautiful things that surround me. Next time you are debating on whether you should head to the beach or not, keep in mind this time could possibly change your life. I have heard a lot of people say that you were in the right place at the right time. What I have to say to those people is this; “the beach is always the right place at the right time!”


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