DANA POINT Amy Lagera was helping a child with special needs learn to paddle board when she spotted a wayward juvenile gray whale Tuesday, Aug. 8 close to the water’s surface near the Ocean Institute.
Lagera, who works for Just Like Me Foundation, a group that provides teens and young adults with organized weekend and summer activities, observed the whale getting closer and closer to shore.
“I had paddled out with Seth, from Bridging the Gap, who was volunteering with our group that day, and Mia, a participant from Just Like Me,” Lagera said. “We followed her over in hopes we could guide her back to the harbor entrance. She swam over to the docks and got herself wedged into a corner.”
That’s when Lagera jumped off the specially adaptive board, built by Adaptive Freedom Foundation and stabilized by outriggers, to try and nudge the whale into a different direction.
“I thought I was less threatening than a paddleboard or kayak so I swam toward her hoping to guide her out,” Lagera said. “She let me come in close. She was facing the wall so I turned her around and she swam away.”
For Lagera, a Hawaii native, it was a memory to treasure.
After seven hours in the harbor, the juvenile gray whale finally was guided out to the mouth of the harbor by the Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol and a host of paddle boarders and kayakers. It was seen off Emerald Bay in Laguna Beach by Mark Girardeau late Tuesday.
On Thursday, Aug. 10, it was spotted before noon in Newport Beach harbor near Davey’s Locker and appeared to be swimming calmly and normally, said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who operates a gray whale census count at Point Vicente off Palos Verdes.
Dominic Biagini, an aerial photographer for Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari, filmed Lagera as she swam with the whale and captured the image that has since gone viral on social media.
“NOAA usually recommends not trying to help them, so as to reduce the…