SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A Santa Barbara sea lion pup jumped on to a kayak being paddled by an Orange County family last weekend and the ride lasted over an hour.
Ron Gist said they felt the kayak rocking and then saw the pup behind them. In a short time it was part of the family.
"About five, ten minutes in, I was able to touch him and pet him. He was able to put his head up under my arm trying to get in my lap," said Rodney Gist of Fullerton.
He was with his 10-year old daughter and five year old son, and nearby his wife and other daughter were in another kayak.
"My wife is somewhat freaking out, thinking about this experience, this wild animal on board with us," said Gist.
The encounter was captured by Joe Buttita of KEYT NewsChannel 3 who was on Stearns Wharf at the time the Gist family paddled by with the friendly new passenger. The pictures have since been shared across the country.
Marine mammal experts do not encourage the public to be this close to the animals or feed them. The sea lions can be unpredictable.
In the last month there has been a surge in sightings along the coastline both in near shore waters but also on the beaches. Some of the pups are under their ideal weight and it's believed that the food supply has shifted to another area.
In this case, however, the pup looked fine and was not aggressive.
"We finally brought him into shore. We brought the kayak backs, he rode with us all the way in,"said Gist in an interview with KABC TV Los Angeles. "It was absolutely incredible we had a great time with the family. It was an experience we couldn't ever duplicate. Incredible.