Daniel Genuth was making his usual walk to work down the Manhattan Beach Pier to the Roundhouse Aquarium on Wednesday at around 1:30 p.m.
What happened next was anything but usual.
Genuth, an public education coordinator for Roundhouse, spotted what he first thought was a surfer just south of the pier. But something looked different.
He grabbed his binoculars. And, lo and behold, he spied a 33-34 foot juvenile grey whale.
Genuth immediately called Eric Martin, Roundhouse Aquarium co-director and they both launched drones to get rare bird's eye footage of the mammal frolicking near shore before it made its way north.
The juvenile grey whale hung around for nearly an hour, said Martin, coming at points within about 100-200 feet of the pier.
"You hear about a lot about grey whales," said Martin, still giddy from the encounter. "You hear that they've been dying and suffering from a lack of food, but this one looked really healthy."
To the delight of Martin, Genuth and a few surfers in the water, the whale was close enough to shore that it was stirring up the sand on the ocean's floor and rolling around in it.
"You could see the swell going right up over it," said Martin. "The water was clear so you could see everything on this animal."
The whale may have been feeding, said Genuth, who said you could see the whale's baleen, the filter feeding system inside a baleen whale's mouth.
But, Martin said the whale was likely searching for food as it put its mouth in the sand to explore for food. But, the aquarist wants to examine the drone footage first to make sure.
Genuth said he saw a grey whale last year near the same spot, but this was better.
"It wasn't nearly as amazing an experience as this was," Genuth said. "To be able to get those drones up and see (the whale's) behaviors, was just incredible."