San Francisco

'Excitement' And ‘Privilege': Berkeley Kayaker Spots Humpback Whales Feeding Off SF Bay

She’s spotted whales off in the distance while she stood on the shore or cruised around on a power boat. She was even lucky enough to witness a pod of whales hanging out last year in the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz. But she’s never seen humpback whales up so close and personal, and dining on fish in the San Francisco bay before.

Until now.

On Sunday, 68-year-old Lyrinda Snyderman, a retired architect from Berkeley, was with three friends on their kayaks when they saw the majestic sight: Four or five huge humpbacks hoisting their large black, barnacled heads out of the water near Angel Island in San Francisco, birds flying around their massive bodies. The whale surfaced, blew water, dove down, and surfaced again and again.

Snyderman and her pals, Dick Mallory, Holly Smith and Don Fleming, couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The group goes out most weekends with the Petaluma Paddlers or the Bay Area Sea Kayakers clubs.

“Oh my God,” Snyderman can be heard shouting gleefully on a 20-minute video she shot from her kayak.

In an interview Tuesday, she explained what she was feeling: “I felt excitement and privilege, we just felt so lucky.”

She said that when her group saw the color of the tide changing, and the bird activity near the Pier 39, she and her paddled over, staying 100 yards away as is the law, knowing that something was up. “That’s when we saw the whales,” she said, adding that she quickly took out her telephoto camera to start documenting. “Not just three breaths and a dive. But we saw their noses, their heads coming out of the water. We just sat there and watched.”

A kayaker spotted four or five huge humpbacks hoisting their large black, barnacled heads out of the water to feed near Angel Island in San Francisco.
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