Best Whale Photo of the Year?

Photo by Paul Schraub/Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council

There are whale photos and then there are whale photos. In a year of amazing videos of whales off the California coast, this photo ranks up there with them, if not at the top.

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"In the era of photoshopping we were suspicious this next image was too good to be true," said Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News Thursday night before introducing the above image, which his team cleared after "extensive checking."

Example of Spyhopping

Video taken in Baja, Mexico

The Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council on Tuesday sent out a photographer to capture marketing images for whale watching in the area. As luck would have it, photographer Paul Schraub caught this spectacular moment of spyhopping whales--that's when whales breach the surface vertically and hold above water--next to a kayaker in the Monterey Bay.

Kayaker Alan Brady was not hurt and was in good spirits when he was interviewed by NBC Bay Area. He and the two whales now grace the tourism bureau's whale watching page.

Humpbacks, which can grow as longer than 50 feet and weigh close to 80,000 pounds, are currently heading south for the winter.

More: Amazing Blue Whale Encounter Caught on Video

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