Close encounter: Paddleboarder records whale rocking boat

A Plymouth paddleboarder captured dramatic cell phone video of a whale rocking a boat near Manomet Point off White Horse Beach Friday morning.

“Wahoo!,” a fisherman on the nearby boat is heard exclaiming on Bob Babcock’s video. “Awesome! I got hit by a [expletive] whale!”

“[The whale] bumped into the boat and spun it, oh, probably 90 degrees, maybe, and it bumped up out of the water about a foot in the front,” Babcock said. “Those guys were laughing seconds after it happened. We were all exclaiming rather vocally.”

But that wasn’t where the excitement ended for Babcock. Suddenly, a whale surfaced inches from his board.

“Your stomach kind of gets in your throat for a second. It’s a little bit of nervousness,” Babcock said. “The whale was right there. I looked down, and the fluke was underneath my board. It was one side here, other side there, and then he just kind of swung sideways and went underneath the board. His tail, I thought for sure, was going to come up and hit me.”

Babcock, who fell in love with paddleboarding 16 years ago as therapy for a brain tumor, has never been so close to so many whales at once.

“This was special. This was definitely different,” Babcock said. “If man can intermingle with these creatures and do so safely, all the better for us to learn how wonderful they are.”

Lindsay Hirt, naturalist for whale watching tour agency Captain John Boats, told Boston 25 News this season has provided a rare opportunity to see a lot of whales not only from the boat she works on but even from shore.

“We’ve had an exciting trend of a lot of whales lately, particularly the humpback whales,” Hirt said. “The town of Plymouth feels this sense of rockstar status whenever we get a lot of whale presence.”

For weeks, dozens have been lining up each morning and night at Manomet Point to get a glimpse of the creatures. Every day, photographers and nature-lovers are posting pictures on social media of their whale adventures.

“This is their feeding ground, at least this population of humpback whales,” Hirt explained. “And what they do is, in the summertime, they hug the coast and migrate north and come to the Gulf of Maine area. And one of the really big hotspots for their all-you-can-eat buffet happens to be Stellwagen Bank and Cape Cod waters.”

While the sights are exciting for thrill-seekers, Hirt urges boaters to take caution around whales and give the huge, unpredictable creatures plenty of space.

“People want to get close. You want to see. They want that perfect shot,” Hirt said. “And sometimes when they do that, they do get a little close. And the last thing we want to do, in terms of humpback whale behavior and safety is to in any way injure or harass them.”

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