Has An Orca Ever Attacked A Kayak? (What to Do If You Encounter One)

If you kayak in the ocean, there’s a good chance you’ll see an orca. Some people choose to go where they can see them, and why wouldn’t they? But if you’ve never seen one up close, they are enormous, beautiful males, which will make you wonder if one has ever attacked a kayak?

In short, orcas in the wild will not attack humans. However, it doesn’t mean one can’t be close enough to have a scary encounter.

Orcas are beautiful sea creatures that are more fascinating to see in real life than on TV. So let’s begin this article by getting to know a few things about them.

A Little About Orcas

Did you know that Orcas, also known as killer whales, are members of the dolphin family?

That’s right! The killer whales aren’t whales; they’re the largest dolphins out there. The heaviest Orca weighed 22,000 pounds, yet it belonged to the dolphin family tree!

Since they are big dolphins, it’s easy to assume these creatures are intelligent. They’re friendly and quite curious towards humans. Unlike sharks, they have excellent eyesight and won’t mistakenly attack humans to eat them.

Orcas and Humans

Orcas rarely attack humans. They can eat humans if they want to, but they usually eat seals, fish, and squids.

There are multiple theories on why Orcas don’t hunt humans for food. It’s believed that Orcas only eat what their mothers taught them to eat.

However, killer whales have attacked people in aquariums in some instances. 

There are even a few cases where they attacked their trainers. For example, do you remember when Kasatka, a 30-year-old orca, grabbed her trainer by the foot and held him there? Here’s a video showing the exact ordeal. 

Experts believe that it’s just playing that got out of hand, which explains why none of these few cases were fatalities.

So let’s ask ourselves another question. If wild Orcas won’t usually attack humans, would they do it when humans do something unusual to marine life, like riding kayaks? 

Has an Orca Ever Attacked a Kayak?

Kayaks are rowing boats that look like Canoes. The difference is that they have water-tight closed decks. However, both can have a space for one or two people.

Since kayaking can be a competitive sport, people tend to cause quite a disturbance when they constantly hit the water with their paddles at high speeds. Could that be dangerous?

If sharks surround you, then yes. This could be very dangerous. Sharks have bad eyesight, and most of their attacks on humans were because they mistook them for other aquatic animals.

However, since Orcas have eyesight that’s nearly as good as humans’ eyesight, they’ll never mistake humans for food. 

There haven’t been any recorded cases of Orcas attacking people while kayaking.

Yet, we mentioned earlier that they’re curious animals; they’re dolphins, after all. Because of that, there’s a chance they might approach you out of curiosity or play. 

Just like the few aquarium incidents, Orcas playing aggressively could be dangerous should they decide to approach people riding kayaks.

Have There Been Any Close Encounters With Orcas?

Yes, a kayaker paddling off Hornby Island, British Colombia, experienced an orca getting a little too close to his kayak. Here’s a video of the encounter. 

As you can see, it was a scary situation, but the Orca didn’t even try attacking the kayak. 

What to Do if You Encounter an Orca While Kayaking?

Killer whales live globally around the world in all the oceans. They are often seen in abundant cold waters like Antarctica, Alaska, Norway, and the North Pacific Ocean. Here’s a list of the best places to kayak with orcas if interested. 

So if you go kayaking in those places, there’s a high chance you might see some of those big dolphins.

Marine life experts said that once you see an Orca, you must be calm, relaxed, and enjoy the process. However, if you’re kayaking in the water, they might approach you and swim around you.

This could be a scary experience. First, you’d be surrounded by animals known for killing whales and sharks. Additionally, some people reported they were close enough to touch them with their paddles.

This is when things could get a little dangerous. If you are surrounded by Orcas while kayaking, take your paddles off the water and place them on your deck. 

If you accidentally hit an Orca with your paddle, it may consider it a threat or a sign that you want to play. Either way, they might become more aggressive than you like, which is when things become dangerous.

What to Do if You Get Attacked by an Orca?

If you get attacked by an Orca, you need to first calm down. They’re not attacking to eat you; they’re either curious or playful. 

They won’t try to grab or bite you immediately; they’ll start by bumping your kayak with their mouths and foreheads. That’s how dolphins explore things.

When that happens, don’t satisfy their curiosity by screaming or calling for help. That would only motivate them to bump you again to get more of that sound you keep making. So instead, keep your cool and refrain from making any sudden movements or voices that may trigger them.

If things worsen and they knock you down in the water, there are a few steps you need to do.

Get Out of Your Kayak

Take a deep breath if you feel that your kayak is about to be flipped over. Then, once you’re inside the water, carefully and calmly loosen yourself from the kayak hole and swim back to the surface.

Leaving the kayak as soon as possible is essential if you’re close to shore. Kayaks’ closed decks will completely prevent you from using your legs to get out of the situation. 

Don’t Scream

Once you swim to the surface, look around and signal to anyone that you need help. You don’t have to yell and explain the situation. Anyone who sees you will notice the Orcas and understand the situation immediately.

Hold on to your kayak to avoid exerting too much effort on floating, and keep your breaths slow and deep.

Always Have a Good Amount of Air in Your Lungs

Orcas won’t bite to injure, but they’ll bite to grab. So there’s a chance they might grab you underwater. Always have a good amount of breath in your lungs in case that happens. 

Keep Calm if They Grab You

Have you ever gone to a resort or tourist attraction where adults and children take short trips with dolphins around the pool? It’s a popular summertime adventure, and it’s called swimming with dolphins. 

This is the case with Orcas as well. If they grab you underwater, it’s mostly a quick trip. Be as motionless as you can to preserve the air in your lungs, and calm down. There’s a good chance they’ll let you go.

Poke the Eyes

When you stay motionless and calm, you’re not only giving the Orca a reason to let you go but also preserving the air in your lungs.

However, if the Orca doesn’t let you go and you feel that you’re starting to run out of air, you should be a little aggressive too. Open your eyes if you can and locate its eye. It should be in front of and slightly under the white patch on its head.

If you can’t open your eyes underwater, use your hand to locate its eye, it should be behind the end of the mouth.

When you locate the eye, poke it with your hand or kick it with your legs.

Swim Away

Once you succeed in poking or even touching the eye, the Orca will let go of you immediately and will mostly take this as a sign that playtime is over.

By the time you’re one with this scary adventure, you should swim back to the surface, where you’ll mostly find a rope or someone to help you. 

If that’s not available, leave your kayak and swim to the nearest possible safe area. You can always recover it later.


The short answer is orcas won’t go out of their way to attack a kayaker. So unless you actively try to provoke them or do something aggravating to them, kayaking in water with Orcas should be fairly safe.

Nevertheless, if you do see them, it’s best to row away from them and enjoy their beauty from afar. As friendly as they are, Orcas are deadly animals. You should never be too confident around them.

Stay safe, and enjoy your kayaking.

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