Hilton Head, SC
July 18, 2010

I usually get my thrills on whitewater, but this  story about a dolphin playing chicken while charging like a bull describes a pretty exciting flat water adventure.  My buddy Mike J and I paddled in the intercoastal waterway at Hilton Head, SC around noon, near the high tide peak.  I didn't take my pelican box or dry bag, so I opted to leave the camera on land.  My son Jackson took the pics above from shore as we were heading out.  I wanted to zig zag in the reeds and see where we ended up, but Mike wanted to stick to the shore line, so we did that instead.  When we hit the largest channel near us, we turned away from shore, paddling 90 degrees away from it, and saw four dolphins feeding on crustaceans.  We caught up to them and paddled right along side them for about 45 minutes.  For much of the time, they were just off my kayak, on my right, never more than 20 yards away, often as close as about 20 feet.  That was a first for both of us and I thought it was pretty stinking awesome.  It was just really, really cool to hear nothing other than the sound of the dolphins blowing air out each time they surfaced.  Mike noticed that a couple of the dolphins had swam into a little pocket along the right bank and pointed out where they were.  They were pretty active while in that little cove, not sure if they were eating fish or what.  Mike and I had stayed pretty quiet, just chilling with the dolphins, but at that point he said "we probably don't want to get to close to them while they are in there or they might feel trapped."  I didn't disagree, but at the same time, when the breeze and current drifted my boat closer and closer to the cove, I didn't paddle away from it, because A.  as a whitewater paddler, I'm prone to doing dumb things just to see how they turn out  B.  I was kind of curious how close I would get to them and C. because in my almost 30 year friendship with Mike, there are a just a lot of really good stories that started out with me doing something stupid.  So there I am, sitting in an unskirted 14' Necky Manitou, with my boat parallel to the bank and pretty much blocking the dolphins' exit from the pocket that they are in.  Everything is just super chill, quiet, serene. soft ocean breeze blowing.  I'm feeling all one with nature.  Then, do you know what it looks like when a ski boat digs in really hard to pull someone up on a slalom ski?  Okay, picture a dolphin doing that, from about 20 feet away, going from 0 to 60 like a speed boat, heading directly, perfectly straight at the cockpit of my kayak.  That dolphin just kept rising higher and higher out of the water, going straight at me, not turning, making this huge wake, I'm sure my brain was trying to process what in the hell was about to happen, but not really getting past "Oh *@&^".  Mike said that it didn't dive until it was about 12 inches from the Necky. 
Dude, you want to talk about a heart rate jumping from next to nothing to right off the charts.   Mike said that it dove under my boat, resurfaced on the other side and buzzed his kayak.  Mike also asked if I needed to hose out my kayak.  Pretty sure the dolphin was just politely telling me to back the *&#^ off.  If so, he got his point across.  They didn't go back to feeding for another 5 minutes or so, but once they did, everything went back to super chill and they let us tag along (keeping our distance) for about another 15 minutes until it was time to head back.
Pretty sweet micro-adventure on flat water.  I rolled the Necky back at the dock, just to see if I could, and so that I would smell like a frog on the ride back to the house.  So I didn't get to paddle a cold mountain stream this weekend, but that moment where the dolphin charged like a bull while playing chicken, will stick with me for a long, long time.  Mike said that it ranks second only to the time I looked at him and said "So, do you want to jump that?"  before going all Dukes of Hazard in my 76 Silverado 454.  That one didn't turn out quite as good for me as the dolphin story though and was a lot more expensive, so I think I might rank yesterday at the top. 
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