By: Pete Thomas,

A dauntingly close encounter this week involving a kayaker and two humpback whales in California’s Monterey Bay is sure to fall under a believe-it-or-not type of scrutiny. But the encounter was captured by a reputable photographer and authenticated by several sources.

Paul Schraub, a freelance photographer hired as part of a marketing campaign by the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council, was shooting Tuesday from aboard a small boat when the humpbacks emerged vertically, surface lunge-feeding on small bait fish, directly next to the kayaker (see video report below).

Christina Glynn of the Visitor’s Council told the San Jose Mercury News that the photo shoot was intended to make prospective business visitors aware of the special whale-watching opportunities off the region’s coast. The humpback encounter occurred off Seabright State Beach in Santa Cruz County, at the northern edge of Monterey Bay.

The bay is known for attracting a variety of large marine mammals, including humpback whales, which gathered recently to forage on massive schools of anchovies. What’s remarkable is that the humpbacks, which are famously gregarious, did not crash down upon the surface. Rather, they just slipped gently downward and the kayaker, while undoubtedly awestruck, was unscathed. And surely, Schraub earned his paycheck and then some.