OAK BAY -- Before they went paddleboarding in the afternoon, Emma and Kyle spent the morning whale-watching with Kyle's visiting parents.

“It was the first time we ever saw an actual orca in real life,” Kyle smiles, before showing me a photograph of a whale tale rising out of the ocean, framed by Mt. Baker in the distance.

Although they were 200 metres away from the orcas, their size was still daunting.

“I was like whoa!” Emma says. “I would be really nervous if I was in a [smaller] boat or a paddleboard.”

Paddleboarding is how they continued sightseeing afterwards at Willows Beach in Oak Bay. 

“The water was clear, you could see crabs,” Kyle recalls. “And then we pull around the corner and see this seal head pop up!”

“And a bunch of fish were jumping out of the water and [the seal] was catching them,” Emma adds. “So that was pretty cool to watch.”

The seal having lunch was caught on video. But while they were focused on the action above the water, Kyle noticed something below it.

“I see this white dash of its eye flashing by,” Kyle says. “I was terrified!”

On the video you can hear Kyle yell, “Whoa! Orca!” Then the camera pans from the seal and fish to what looks like a large wave coming towards their paddleboard. Kyle yells “orca” a couple more times, before Emma says, “Kyle! I’m feeling uncomfortable! We need to move!”

“All of a sudden this huge whale comes underneath our paddleboard. We could have touched it if we wanted to,” Emma says, still amazed. “I’ll never get that image out of my head.”

“Seeing something that large, especially when you’re not expecting it — that’s crazy,” Kyle says, after reminding me that both he and Emma were sharing one paddleboard while the whale was swimming under it.

Then they saw that one whale was being followed by two more.

They realized this was the same trio they’d seen while whale-watching in the morning, except instead of being more than 200 metres away, they were less than two.

You couldn’t help but wonder if the orcas were playing tourist too, and following them on a people-watching expedition.

“They probably think we’re pretty weird, being in the ocean without fins,” Emma smiles.

No matter what they thought, hopefully the close encounter was just as memorable for the whales as the humans.

“It was a one-in-a-million experience!” Emma laughs.