Getting slapped in the face is uniquely embarrassing among the various ways a person can be humiliated. But getting slapped in the face by a seal wielding an octopus, as one kayaker in New Zealand recently experienced, is an exercise in utter submission. A now-viral video of the kayaker getting completely owned shows the unlikely event in all its unbridled, bizarre glory.
The video, uploaded to Instagram by filmmaker/surfer/skydiver and GoPro family member Taiyo Masuda, shows another kayaker, Kyle Mullinder, receiving the wet, eight-armed slap as they explore the waters around Kaikoura, New Zealand. “My face happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mullinder told Yahoo7 News.
There isn’t enough information to tell whether the octopus slap was purposefully directed at him, but based on what we know about seals, octopus-throwing is not actually that unusual.
Seals in New Zealand waters — the one in the video is most likely a New Zealand fur seal — are known to eat fish and cephalopods, including octopuses. A 1991 analysis by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation showed that octopuses make up as much as 29 percent of a New Zealand fur seal’s diet.
Octopuses, for their part, can grow to be quite formidable and are not exactly fast food for seals. If a seal is craving tentacles for dinner, then it must be prepared to work to subdue its wriggling prey. One tactic to do so is to stun the octopus before eating it by throwing it against the water’s surface, a vicious strategy also employed by dolphins. In a 2017 interview with The Telegraph, New Zealand tour guide Connor Staple explained that seals “have to rip the tentacles off before they eat them, otherwise they stick to their throat and they have to throw it up and start again. They are literally dismembered.”
Octopuses may lack the hulking mass of a grown seal, but they’re no wimps either. Occasionally, they’ll put up a fight, as this photo posted to Reddit, also taken in New Zealand, shows.
Even more dramatic is the seal-octopus fight captured on camera by horrified onlookers in Victoria, British Columbia in 2015.
In Masuda’s video, you can hear Mullinder saying in the background, “There’s an octopus on my boat! He’s actually holding my boat,” suggesting that, if the seal’s objective was to stun and eat the octopus, then the octopus got a lucky break. That’s more than can be said for Mullinder, who summed up his experience on his Instagram profile: “Wrong place, right time.”