Surfer learns not to get between a momma gray whale and baby

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- A Southern California surfer has learned the hard way not to come between a momma gray whale and her baby.

Captain Dennis Longaberger's Sunset Kidd boat tour group was watching two mother whales nurse their babies Friday off the Santa Barbara coast when a surfer paddled out in the middle of them.

The group gasped as suddenly, Longaberger said one mother used one of her large pectoral fins to smack him away from her baby. The force brought the surfer down under water for roughly 30 seconds.

11 PHOTOS
Gray Whales
See Gallery
Surfer learns not to get between a momma gray whale and baby
A gray whale, one from a group known locally as the "Saratoga grays" for a nearby passage the whales favor, shows its massive tail fluke while diving Friday, March 13, 2015, in Possession Sound, near Everett, Wash. Several of the expected 11 whales returned within the past week for what has become an annual feeding event for the small group, a break-off from the spring migration of thousands of the gray whales from the calving lagoons in Mexico to the Bering Sea and then to the waters off Russia. The small group is expected to spend about three months feeding in the waters off the sound end of Whidbey Island, Wash., before rejoining the northbound migration in mid-June. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A grey whale calf (Eschrichtius robustus) emerges from the waters of the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, Baja California Sur State, Mexico, on March 3, 2015. The Pacific gray whales have been protected since 1947, and are at the center of a growing whale-sightseeing industry. Their numbers have dropped by a third, from around 26,000, in the late 1990s. Whales go to Laguna de Liebre and others Lagoons, off Mexico's northwest Baja California peninsula, where grey whales breed and nurse their calves each year after migrating thousands of miles from Canada and Alaska. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
A gray whale, called "Little Patch" and one of a group known locally as the "Saratoga grays" for a nearby passage the whales favor, shows its massive tail fluke while diving Friday, March 13, 2015, in Possession Sound, near Everett, Wash. Several of the expected 11 whales returned within the past week for what has become an annual feeding event for the small group, a break-off from the spring migration of thousands of the gray whales from the calving lagoons in Mexico to the Bering Sea and then to the waters off Russia. The small group is expected to spend about three months feeding in the waters off the sound end of Whidbey Island, Wash., before rejoining the northbound migration in mid-June. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) emerges from the waters of the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, Baja California Sur state, Mexico on March 3, 2015. The Pacific gray whales have been protected since 1947, and are at the center of a growing whale-sightseeing industry. Their numbers have dropped by a third, from around 26,000, in the late 1990s. Whales go to Laguna de Liebre and others Lagoons, off Mexico's northwest Baja California peninsula, where grey whales breed and nurse their calves each year after migrating thousands of miles from Canada and Alaska. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
A grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) dives into the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, Baja California Sur state, Mexico on March 3, 2015. The Pacific gray whales have been protected since 1947, and are at the center of a growing whale-sightseeing industry. Their numbers have dropped by a third, from around 26,000, in the late 1990s. Whales go to Laguna de Liebre and others Lagoons, off Mexico's northwest Baja California peninsula, where grey whales breed and nurse their calves each year after migrating thousands of miles from Canada and Alaska. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
A grey whale calf plays with sea plants in the Ojo de Liebre lagoon in Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur state, Mexico on January 27, 2010. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
Two gray whales show their rostrums at the San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California Sur state, Mexico on February 28, 2010. Although a debate is now raging among some whaling nations to begin limited hunting again, the Pacific gray whales have been protected since 1947, and are at the center of a growing whale-sightseeing industry. Their numbers have dropped by a third, from around 26,000, in the late 1990s. Scientists say that the decline was caused by melting artic ice impacting on their food chains, which include small fish, crustaceans, squid and other tiny organisms. A small-scale whale-sightseeing industry was developed in the remote spot of San Ignacio Lagoon, off Mexico's northwest Baja California peninsula, where grey whales breed and nurse their calves each year after migrating thousands of miles from Canada and Alaska. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
The tail of a gray whale surfaces at the Ojo de Liebre lagoon in Guerrero Negro, Mexico, Monday Feb. 21, 2011. The coastal lagoon is located in the middle of the Baja California peninsula and is one of three primary breeding and calving grounds for the gray whale. As of Feb. 14, 2011, 1,406 gray whales, including adults and calves, were registered at Ojo de Liebre, according to Mexico's Commission on Natural Protected Areas. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)
A gray whale surfaces at the Ojo de Liebre lagoon in Guerrero Negro, Mexico, Monday Feb. 21, 2011. The coastal lagoon is located in the middle of the Baja California peninsula and is one of three primary breeding and calving grounds for the gray whale. As of Feb. 14, 2011, 1,406 gray whales between adults and calves were registered at Ojo de Liebre lagoon, according to Mexico's Commission on Natural Protected Areas. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)
Canadian tourists Carol Ferguson, right, and Ian Scott touch a gray whale during a whale watching tour at the Ojo de Liebre lagoon in Guerrero Negro, Mexico, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009. Ojo de Liebre lagoon is one of three primary breeding lagoons that the whales seek in the Baja California peninsula and is located 450 miles south the United States-Mexico international border. Hunted to the edge of extinction in the 1850's after the discovery of the calving lagoons, and again in the early 1900's with the introduction of floating factories, the gray whale was given full protection in 1947 by the International Whaling Commission. Since that time the eastern north Pacific gray whale population has made a remarkable recovery and now numbers between 19,000 and 23,000, probably close to their original population size. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

His blue soft top surfboard shot about 5 feet in the air. Finally, the surfer resurfaced, grabbing his board and paddling back to the beach, where a bystander took him to the hospital.

"He got smacked down," Longaberger said. "It wasn't like she was out to kill him. She was like `No, you're not supposed to be over here.' This is a large animal, about 45 feet long, and her fin's got some serious power."

On Monday, the surfer looked up Longaberger to compare notes. He'd only seen one whale and couldn't clearly tell what was happening. Longaberger said he appeared to be black and blue all over, but had no broken bones.

The gray whales travel down to Mexico to give birth in warmer waters before traveling up along the coast toward Alaska, where there is more food, said Longaberger, who's watched whales for 27 years.

Because killer whales frequently lie in wait along the California coast during this time of year, the gray whales will travel closer to shore to protect their babies, stopping occasionally to give them milk.

The mother will turn her belly sideways, her tail tipped of the water, as her baby tees up next to her to drink.

It's around this time too that surfers, kayakers and beach-based bystanders are more frequently able to see the whales and come into contact with them.

"As long as you're not aggressive to these animals, these animals are extremely courteous," Longaberger said. "For such a huge animal they eat really little tiny things, they're mammals like we are. They're the most hospitable animals."

He added: "But they've got to defend their child like anyone would

Check out this seal hang on a surfboard:

Seal Hanging Out on Surfboard

Read Full Story

People are Reading