A Fullerton family got a Valentine’s Day surprise when a young sea lion showed them some love by hitching a ride on the back of their kayak during an outing in a Santa Barbara harbor on Saturday.
“At first it felt like he was pushing the kayak. We felt him back there,” said Rodney Gist, who was riding with two of his children near Stearns Wharf at the time. “Next thing you know, I could tell he had climbed aboard.”
The family became startled when they realized that it was a sea lion that had jumped up and plopped down right behind Rodney Gist.
“It’s a wild animal so we’re a little bit … interested in seeing how he would behave,” Gist said.
As it turned out, Gist needn’t worry about the young sea lion, which appeared to be simply looking to spread the love on the romantic holiday.
The pup — which the family named “Cecil” — nuzzled against Gist as it remained seated in back of him and turned out to be “really sweet,” the father said. The cute creature appeared at one point to even kiss the back of his head, video of the incident showed.
“I could tell he was kind of playful like a dog,” Gist added.
The family could only speculate why the sea lion pup jumped on their kayak in the first place.
“Maybe he just was tired of swimming. Maybe he was wanting to interact with people. Maybe he just wanted to snuggle,” said Gist’s daughter Lee Lee.
Eventually, a crowd of beachgoers gathered near to witness the eye-catching spectacle.
“That is so awesome,” one enthusiastically yelled upon seeing the unusual sight, according to the video.
The family believes that the little guy got spooked by the amount of people watching and decided to head back into the ocean with a group of other sea lions.
But, the family said, they had a lot of fun while it was lasted.
Lee Lee added that it was a good thing their experience was caught on video, as she doubted her friend would believe what had happened.
KTLA’s Kennedy Ryan contributed to this story.