Couple gets up-close whale view off New Brighton State Beach

By Stephen Baxter, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Nanci Williams took this picture of her husband, Skip Williams, as a humpback whale came out of the water off New Brighton State Beach on Monday. (Nanci Williams — Contributed)

CAPITOLA >> A couple from Ukiah took a paddle on the wild side Monday when a humpback whale surfaced within feet of them off New Brighton State Beach.

Nanci Williams, a 47-year-old emergency room nurse, snapped a cellphone picture of the lunging whale and her husband, Skip Williams, stunned on a stand-up paddleboard.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Skip Williams, 52. “We were paddling together and up popped this humpback right in front of us.”

Skip Williams said he and his wife often visit Santa Cruz and had seen dolphins from the water off The Hook in Pleasure Point on Sunday. Monday, the couple spotted a whale near New Brighton State Beach and launched a kayak and stand-up paddleboard near another paddleboarder already in the water.

Small fish and birds congregated not far offshore near the whale.

Authorities have reminded people to keep their distance from whales, in part because the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act requires it. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises people to stay 100 yards from whales for the safety of humans and animals.

Skip Williams, a paramedic and firefighter, said the whale happened to surface near him.

“It wasn’t too long we were out there when he just popped up,” he said.

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