We've seen our share of paddleboard encounters with wildlife that take an unexpected turn: from orca nibbles to shark collisions, you never know what you're going to get out there. One family in Mexico just got the surprise of their lives:

US tourists Kerry Ward and his daughter captured this amazing footage during a recent holiday, when hundreds of rays exploded out of the water right beside their boards. 

"I was half expecting one to fly up and hit me!" he recalls in the clip. "It was one of the most special things I’ve seen on the ocean ever." 

The rays in the video are of the mobula variety, hailing from the same family (Myliobatidae) as the better-known manta ray. Commonly referred to as "devil rays" or "jumping rays", they can reach an astonishing width of 17 feet (5 metres) – that's second only to the manta in size. 

Scientists aren't exactly sure why the rays perform these airborne acrobatics. The behaviour might be linked to hunting or courting rituals, and it might also be a way to dislodge parasites. Experts also suspect the breaching acts as a form of communication, both within the same school and with neighbouring rays. The leaping often happens in large groups: in fact, thousands have been seen jumping together.

Whatever the reason, we can only imagine what the experience was like for the Wards – and we applaud them for staying put and letting these animals make their way past without interference. 

2015 01 30 Viral Shark Video Related Content


Top header image: Nick Bonzey, Flickr