A family kayaking in Santa Barbara harbor in California on Saturday found themselves paddling with an extra passenger when a sea lion pup hopped aboard and hitched a ride.
“At first it felt like he was pushing the kayak. We felt him back there,” Rodney Gist told KTLA. “Next thing you know, I could tell he had climbed aboard.”
Gist was on the kayak with his 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son while his wife and 8-year-old daughter watched from another kayak, KABC reported.
"My wife is somewhat freaking out, thinking about this experience, this wild animal on board with us," Gist told KEYT.
The family quickly bonded with the pup, which they nicknamed Cecil.
"About five, 10 minutes in, I was able to touch him and pet him. He was putting his head up underneath my arm, trying to get on my lap," Gist told KABC. "I thought he was going to be slimy. He was more like a dry, short-haired dog is what it felt like."
It's generally not a good idea to touch the wildlife. All animals, even adorable ones, can become aggressive. In 2012, singer Shakira learned this lesson when she was scratched by a sea lion in South Africa while trying to pet it.
Gist said the pup stayed with the family until they reached shore. When a crowd of onlookers gathered, however, Cecil slipped back into the water and disappeared.