A North Carolina man is hoping he doesn't see the alligator who slammed into his boat later.
Pete Joyce, a firefighter and paramedic, said he was paddling in a swampy section of the Waccamaw River when he saw the alligator about three feet away from him. He was stunned and didn't have enough time to react before the alligator lunged at him and tipped his boat over, but a video camera he was wearing on his chest captured the whole interaction so he could process it later.
"I was just about to turn around when it came towards me," Joyce, 46, said. "The video doesn't show how hard the impact was. The alligator hit the kayak so hard, I lost my balance and started to roll."
Yet the encounter didn't end there. Joyce said he could feel the alligator swimming under his boat. As he climbed back into the kayak, he hit it three times, hoping doing so would scare the creature away.
Although Joyce is an experienced kayaker who practices the water sport at least once a week and who plans to kayak all of Waccamaw River, a 140-mile body of water that goes through both North Carolina and South Carolina, years of kayaking hadn't prepared him to face off against the critter. He said he grabbed his paddle and set off away from the area as quickly as he could, scared the alligator might return.
"I've never worried about alligators," Joyce said. "When I've seen them in the past, they kind of go their own way and don't mess with you."
But this experience was different and taught the veteran kayaker that even he had something yet to learn about one of his favorite past times.
"This time of year is a bad one to be paddling because we're on the heels of mating season and animals are guarding their nests," Joyce said. "Kayaking's a great hobby, but you need to know your environment. You're going into wildlife so you have to do your research."
Although Joyce acknowledges the need to be more careful, he's not letting his encounter with the alligator stop him from kayaking. He still has dozens of miles of the Waccamaw River to explore.