Nowadays, when we think about orca whales, our thoughts range from happy notions of Free Willy and Shamu to spiritual reverence. No matter the case, we tend to think of them as kind and gentle giants of the sea.

This was not always the case. For most of the early and mid 1900s, the orcas were first demonized as man-killers and then exploited as pricy commodities. In August 1984, Canoe & Kayak published a story by Will Nordby, a northern California native, that conveyed the orcas in a different way.

In light of the upcoming whale seasons around the country, we decided to pull this article from the vault and onto the website, a story on how “kayaking eye-to-eye with the whale called “killer” brings deeper understanding … and respect.”