And there you are, in central Florida, doing the absolute best job you possibly can. Surfline calling 2 – 3 and getting it very wrong, per the norm. But you are a surfer and from central Florida so paddle out anyhow into the unseasonable chill. Excited.
You notice a man sitting on the beach snapping photos, focusing on the lineup and think, “If I get a good one maybe he’ll get a shot?”
And like that, as if summoned, a wave comes directly your way. You paddle, pop up, wiggle a turn then another, bash off the lip maybe and feel like Kelly Slater himself, though then get stuck behind the whitewash for a little too long but still whoosh out and finish with a serviceable cutback. Not the best you’ve ever done but there were certainly some moments and you look toward the beach at the man snapping photos and hope.
Later that evening, your jaw drops to the floor as you see a photo of yourself from earlier, on the wave where you wiggled and bashed and cutback. Except the image captures none of those. It captures you behind the whitewash but still. A surf shot of you on the local news.
Then you hear the news anchor talking about the “viral photobombing giant manta ray” that has “captured hearts around the world” and your eyes wander up.
You see the attention-starved bastard poking his head above the water, pulling all focus.
The news anchor continues, reading amazed comments from Facebook like, “Wow, I’ve seen whales, sharks and small fish jumping but first time I’ve heard about Manta Rays jumping…great photo.” and “Awesome shot. We were sitting at a club watching it jump repeatedly. He would jump 2-3 times, then an hour later, same thing. He didn’t wander very far.”
The news anchor then interviews the photographer, Rusty Escandell, who owns a local automotive business. He says, “To be frank with you, I was actually focusing on the surfer. I was doing a burst, catching several frames, and it wasn’t until I got home and I was reviewing the pictures that I actually saw what was happening in the background.”
What is happening in the background, though, is all anyone cares about and your moment is ruined forever.
Damn giant manta rays.