A photographer captured the epic moment a humpback whale breached behind a surfer as she flew into the air — with the pair synchronizing perfectly.
Alex Hayes was in South Africa filming pro surfer Brianna Cope last year when the magical moment happened. Cope recently posted the amazing clip to her Instagram page sparking the video to go viral.
“While she was out there surfing away from the contest, I was filming a whale breaching for three to four minutes straight,” Hayes tells PetaPixel.
“Then at the end of that video is when Brianna stood up on that wave and it somehow just lined up perfectly”
Hayes was filming on a 600mm lens attached to a Sony Alpha 1 when he captured the fortuitous shot — so good that some people doubt its authenticity.
“Most people think it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen and a select group of people think it’s fake, haha,” Hayes adds.
But he says the whale was “slapping its tail” on the water in the same spot for about two minutes until Cope surfed the wave and somehow the pair synched.
Cope — who represented the USA national team at the 2023 ISA World Surfing Games — shared the clip on January 30 writing, “Just me and a friend. Mother Nature is amazing.” In the comments, she clarified that it is “one of my favorite moments surfing.”
Surfer notes that although surfers regularly encounter, dolphins, seals, sea lions, fish, sea turtles, stingrays, and sharks; whales are rather more elusive because of their size requiring more space.
In 2021, PetaPixel reported on a photographer who was capturing a whale-watching trip when he unexpectedly captured incredible photos of a large humpback whale exploding out of the water right next to an unsuspecting fisherman on his boat.
More recently, a windsurfer recorded himself being wiped out by an enormous juvenile humpback whale on a GoPro 360 camera.
More of Hayes’ work can be found on his Instagram.
Image credits: Photographs by Alex Hayes