In the azure waters off the coast of New Zealand, a primal scene was unfolding.
A seal had an octopus in its teeth, the eight-limbed mollusk flailing, fighting for its life. Then, a kayaker - bright yellow watercraft and life vest, cap, sunglasses and all - got in the way.
He paid a price for trespassing on the animal kingdom, as the group of seafarers got caught up in a marine brawl.
"Underwater?" asked one of the passengers.
They spoke too soon, as the seal zipped through the water, broke through the surface and smacked Kyle Mulinder in the face with the octopus.
"It was like a wet towel but with a bit of hardness," said Mulinder, a 37-year-old travel Instagrammer from the small farming town of Norsewood.
"Wrong place, right time," he wrote on Instagram, where he posted video of the encounter, which unfolded Saturday near Kaikoura, a coastal town on the south island of New Zealand. "Yes I got slapped in the face with an octopus by the seal!"
Mulinder’s reaction was a shake of the head and a startled growl-yelp. In an interview with The Washington Post, he offered more detail than the now-viral GoPro video allowed, saying the slippery slap hardly dampened an amusing day.
To test the new GoPro Hero 7 model, he had set out with a group to Kaikoura, an area famous for wildlife. They were about 60 feet from the shore when they saw a "giant seal fighting an octopus, which is awesome, crazy."
They watched the struggle in delight from about 30 feet away. "You don’t approach that kind of thing," he said.
"And then all of a sudden, the show goes quiet, and the seal dives down underwater, and you’re like, ‘Well that was that,’" Mulinder recounted. "Then, it comes up toward us, like, ‘Oh, my God, here it comes.’"
The enduring mystery, Mulinder wrote on Instagram, is who was most surprised by the episode: human, seal or octopus? It may have been the octopus, as the sea creature held on to the bottom of his kayak for some time, he said, before his guide was able to shoo it away with a paddle.
"True story," he affirmed.
It’s a story that has so delighted online audiences, he said, that he’s getting a flood of media requests. Even his parents have been caught in the deluge, fielding phone calls from eager viewers.
"It’s actually crazy. It’s getting a bit exhausting now," Mulinder said. "I’m getting to the point where I’m saying, I want to go to bed."