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Paddleboarder Gets Special Visit From Giant, Curious Whale

“I was more in awe than afraid.”

In his 40 years spent swimming and paddleboarding, Brian Shea has seen his fair share of ocean animals.

His encounter this weekend, however, is going to be quite hard to top.

Shea was paddleboarding off the coast of Long Branch Beach, New Jersey, on Saturday when he spotted a humpback whale skim the surface of the water about 20 feet away.

Seconds later, the whale emerged from the water again — this time just a paddle-length’s away from the New Jersey resident. As the whale crested back down into the water and bid farewell with a final flick of his large tail, Shea started paddling away.

“I was more in awe than afraid as I've gotten used to being so close to them,” Shea told NBC New York, noting that he and his daughter regularly spot dolphins and whales while out paddleboarding but have never had an experience like this. “[I] view the entire experience as something I'm so fortunate to see in nature."

Shea had seen a few whales feeding offshore that day before getting into the water, but he wasn’t prepared for anything like this — he regularly shares his encounters on a Facebook page dedicated to whale and dolphin watching on the Jersey Shore.

“I’ve been everywhere from Tahiti to Hawaii to California to the Caribbean,” Shea wrote later that day on Facebook. “This experience was right up there with the best of them! I’m so thankful we get to experience this right in our backyard.”

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