This Kiwi Kayaker Got a Slimy Slap from an Unexpected Source!

“Small town kiwi boy playing in a big beautiful world.”

That’s how globe-trotting New Zealand adventurer Kyle Mulinder describes himself. Kyle lives for the outdoors and travel, but you won’t find him strolling through a meadow or idly catching rays on the beach. None of those ho-hum activities for this daredevil Kiwi.

Kyle is a lifelong fan of extreme outdoor activities — you know, the kind often associated with the term “adrenaline rush”. From the depths of the ocean to the peaks of the highest mountains and the wide-open sky, Kyle’s thrill-seeking expeditions are nearly boundless.

In addition to putting him through more than a few perilous predicaments, Kyle’s explorations have brought him face to face with creatures great and small. But he’d never had a wildlife encounter quite like the one he did on a sunny afternoon in the waters off of New Zealand’s Kaikoura Peninsula.


Despite all of his outdoor experience, there’s no way that Kyle could have predicted what would happen that September day. In fact, he wasn’t even expecting adventure on that trip. But boy did he get some…

Click on to follow this amazing story!


Kyle’s expression as he plummets downward on this canyoning expedition says it all: being active in the great outdoors brings him absolute joy. Yes, he’s screaming — but that just tells you how big of a thrill he was getting in this maneuver!

As you can imagine, canyoning (aka canyoneering) is a fairly hazardous recreational pursuit — in other words, right up Kyle’s alley! Traveling through canyons can require any number of specialized competencies, such as rappelling, ropework, and technical jumping and swimming. Preferred locations are often remote and rugged, making rescue difficult. Because of this, good navigational skills and other types of wilderness/survival expertise are essential.

You can bet that Kyle has what it takes!

Flickr/Phillip Capper

Kyle was raised on a sheep farm in the sleepy town of Norsewood, located in the lower part of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s a stunningly beautiful place, but Kyle dreamed of more. The older he got, his desire for adventure and travel grew stronger and stronger.


As soon as he was old enough, Kyle set off to make his way in the wide, wide world. The first stop was the coastal South Island town of Nelson, where he enrolled in an adventure tourism course. Located on the shores of Tasman Bay and surrounded by three national parks, Nelson is an eco-adventure mecca for good reason.

Kyle completed the course and landed himself his very first real job as a whitewater rafting guide on the nearby Buller River. And that was just the beginning. Today, he has nearly two decades of experience as an adventure tourism pro.


Obviously, nature lovers make the best adventure guides. Their passion is inspirational and their wilderness expertise is reassuring. But one thing outdoorsy types are often not so savvy about is technology. After all, these are the folks who’d rather be out in the world than stuck in front of a screen!

But Kyle is a different kind of nature lover. He’s a dedicated outdoorsman and technologically competent — so competent, in fact, that he’s become a bona fide social media influencer in the world of global adventure travel.


The funny thing is that Kyle just sort of stumbled into this digital influencer role. Back when he was just starting out in 2009, the amount of waste generated by paper tourism brochures began to really bother him.

So Kyle came up with an innovative idea: instead of generating trash-destined glossy pamphlets, he would produce short videos of himself enjoying adventurous activities in various tourist destinations.

I can hear some of you mumbling, Video sharing is innovative? But remember, this was nearly 20 years ago. YouTube had been around for several years but hadn’t really taken off. 2009 was the year all that changed… and lucky Kyle was in the right place at the right time! 


When he began sharing his adventure videos on YouTube, Kyle’s following grew quickly. It wasn’t long before corporate brands started paying attention too. Today, he is a brand ambassador for GoPro, Ford and outdoor gear company MacPac (i.e., he gets paid to wear/use/promote their products).

Kyle is also sought-after by tourism boards across the globe to promote travel to their region through site-specific videos. This photo is from his very first assignment in Dubai; since then, he’s partnered with countless tourism boards, including those of California, Canada, Washington State and Banff/Lake Louise.


Kyle works all over the world, but a good portion of his activities are closer to home — lucky for him, home is New Zealand, and the opportunities for adventure in stunning surroundings are practically endless.

The country is renowned for its incredibly diverse geography and breathtaking beauty. From rocky mountain tops to lush forests, sandy beaches to mighty glaciers, New Zealand has it all. 


Remember how I mentioned that Kyle is something of an adrenaline junkie? Check out this heart-stopping shot of him skydiving over New Zealand’s Fox Glacier and Westland and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Parks.

With a view this fabulous, even the more acrophobic of us could be tempted to give it a go! If you’re brave enough to try this 60-second freefall, you’ll be treated to what many call the most scenic skydive in the world.

Even though he’s completely self-taught, Kyle’s a pretty impressive photographer and videographer. He captures some jaw-dropping images of his thrilling adventures, but his photos also reflect his deep appreciation of the natural beauty that he encounters in his travels.

For close-to-home outings like this stunning hike, Kyle’s wife Lisa often joins. Even though she doesn’t come along on every adventure, Lisa is still very involved with Kyle’s outdoor ambassador career. She helps run his company, Bare Kiwi.


New Zealand’s embarrassment of natural riches also includes an amazing array of aquatic life that exists below the surface of the country’s surrounding blue seas. And one of the very best places to observe this abundant ocean wildlife is the Kaikoura Peninsula.


Located on the northeastern coast of the South Island, Kaikoura is renowned for its whale watching tours, the most well-known of which boasts an incredible 95% success rate in encountering a whale on each ride. Although whales are the major tourist attraction, the area is teeming with other marine creatures. 

The reason Kaikoura draws such a huge variety of sea life is the 50km-long ocean canyon that lies just offshore. Sea canyons can be major feeding grounds because of the turbulence generated when ocean currents slam into the canyon walls. The churning water spreads plankton and other nutrients, allowing bait to flourish.

And when the little fish come, you can count on bigger fish arriving hot on their tail. And so on, and so on…


In addition to whales, Kaikoura is home to dolphins, fur seals, albatross, and more.  There is no shortage of opportunities for up-close wildlife encounters. Swimming with dolphins, anyone? 

Kaikoura is one of Kyle’s very favorite spots in New Zealand. This is an aerial shot of a dolphin boat tour that Kyle and his wife took. You can’t see it here, but they’re just about to slide in the water and swim alongside the scores of dolphins you see in the foreground.  

It must have been fun for Kyle to act like a tourist for once! What an amazing animal encounter to experience.

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Swimming with those majestic dolphins is a memory Kyle will no doubt cherish for many years. In that dreamlike moment, he never would have predicted the not-so-idyllic wildlife interaction that awaited him in these same Kaikoura waters…


As you’ve probably gathered by now, Kyle is a big fan of water: rivers, oceans, seas, you name it. Lucky for him, New Zealand offers endless opportunities for various water activities.

Here, Kyle’s having a mellow moment in the sunshine on a beautiful sandy beach. If you’re thinking this seems out of character, you’re right…


… a second later, he was back on the go, gearing up to lead a kayaking expedition. As an outdoor adventure guide, Kyle has safety checklists to perform prior to launch (or jump, descent, dive, etc.) 

Have you ever wondered what those stretchy cords are that you see all over kayaks? Known as decklines, the elastic web that weaves around the boat has multiple purposes. These include operating the rudder, providing a grab-hold if necessary and securing extra gear to the deck.


Unsurprisingly, Kyle has experience with most every type of boat, from inflatable river rafts all the way up to full-blown yachts. But he’s an especially big fan of sea kayaking.

Can you tell the difference between a sea kayak and a river kayak? They are very similar watercraft, with one major distinction: sea kayaks are longer and narrower. This elongated form is designed for smooth tracking. River kayaks, in contrast, have much shorter and flatter hulls to allow for quick maneuvering in tricky waters.


Kyle loves his work. Leading expeditions and introducing people to the places and activities that you cherish is a pretty nice gig if you can get it. 

But sometimes you gotta just let loose with a buddy, too. On this particular day, that friend was Taiyo Masuda. Taiyo lives across the Tasman Sea in Sydney, so the two men were excited to catch up and spend the day kayaking together. They became friends via GoPro: both are official content creators/ambassadors.


In addition to some good catch-up time in the great outdoors, Kyle and Taiyo did have to do some official business to take care of that day: testing out the latest GoPro camera. Like I said, it’s nice work if you can get it!

The two mates packed up their gear and headed for Kyle’s kayaking stomping ground: Kaikoura. He knew that the impressive scenery would make a great backdrop for their test video.


It was a beautiful, clear day and they were looking forward to a fun paddle around the calm bay. A few friends came to join in the fun — these outgoing fellows, the more the merrier!  When the group convened, they eagerly geared up for the trip. Spirits were high as the boating crew set off for their tour of the bay.


Taiyo and Kyle shared a tandem kayak so that they could both be in the video. They didn’t expect it to be an extreme adventure by any means, but these two pros clearly know how to create fun wherever they go.


As calm as it was that day, Kyle and Taiyo were even able to catch a few decent waves. Unfortunately for them, New Zealand’s ocean temperatures are not exactly balmy. At least the air temperature was mild. Oh well… looks like they couldn’t care less anyway!


These amazing action shots were created by the GoPro camera that they were checking out. Taiyo had carefully mounted the camera to the bow of their kayak to capture their fun up close.

Considering what was about to happen, it turned out to be incredibly fortuitous that they were on camera testing duty that day. Without it, no one might have believed their incredible story.


Kyle and his group were having a blast just cruising around the bay. Still, he was hoping his visitors would get to catch a glimpse of some of the renowned local marine life. Ever the tour guide… even with his mates!


A fur seal encounter was one possibility. Officially they’re arctocephalus forsteri, but the species goes by many different common names: kekeno (in the indigenous Māori language) Australasian fur seal, South Australian fur seal, New Zealand fur seal, Antipodean fur seal, long-nosed fur seal…

No matter what you call them, one thing remains the same: like all fur “seals”, kekeno are actually much closer to sea lions than they are to seals! Like sea lions, fur seals have external ears (pinnae), relatively long and muscular front flippers and the ability to walk on all fours.

Flickr/Bernard Spragg

Can you believe the face on this little fella? 

Kyle kept his eyes peeled for a sighting on the shore or the water’s surface. Fur seals can be found on rocky coastlines around New Zealand and Southern Australia and many of their offshore islands; Kaikoura’s seaside terrain makes it a favored fur seal spot. 

Seeing a dolphin or a whale would be thrilling, of course. But fur seals can also be a great encounter since the animals are often quite curious. Sometimes fur seal pups will even climb aboard a kayak to get a closer look!


Kyle felt fairly confident that they would be able to spot a fur seal before the afternoon was up. Even if they didn’t spot one sunning on the rocks, there was a good chance one would pop up from underwater soon. After all, he reasoned, they can only stay under for six minutes at a time.

Lo and behold, the group soon spotted something moving under the water. Taiyo quickly repositioned the camera so they could capture the moment.

Kyle figured it was a fur seal coming up for air — but on closer inspection, he saw that the blurry figure didn’t really resemble a fur seal. At least not one he’d ever seen.


As the mystery animal rose up toward the water’s surface, it became very clear that this was no ordinary fur seal. In fact, no one quite knew what the bizarre-looking creature was. 

Some members of the group began to gently reverse stroke their kayaks in order to clear space for whatever was about to reveal itself. I’m guessing there was an extra touch of urgency in their motions.


Unlike the others, Kyle and Taiyo were just too curious to pull back. Plus, the consummate professionals wanted to get the best camera angle possible! 

As the strange creature started to breach the surface, they could see that it was actually thrashing about quite dramatically. Kyle wracked his brain but couldn’t think of an animal that moved in such a frenetic manner. The spooky site was enough to make even this veteran wildlife guide’s heart start pounding.


Suddenly, the form burst up out of the water, no more than two feet away from Kyle! In that split second, he processed the scene in front of him: pointy nose, thick brown fur, extremely long whiskers… It had to be a fur seal after all.


But why the heck was it in such a frenzy? Kyle’s brain was spinning. Was it sick? In danger? Possessed? Wait, what in the world is in its…


… Holy *(^&!!!

Whatever this pink and slimy blob was, the seal seemed to be intent on hurling it in Kyle’s direction! He desperately tried to paddle away, but it was far too late for that. 


In the fraction of a second prior to impact, Kyle realized — to his horror — that the object careening his way was a massive mollusk. He didn’t have time to count all eight appendages, but he didn’t need to: the suckers gave it away…


Any hope Kyle had that the octopus’s squishy body wouldn’t sting too badly on impact were dashed as soon as the first tentacle made contact with his face.

SMACK! went one appendage, then another and another… 

You just feel the tentacles, the suction-y things — I don’t know the right term — but I could feel it, and it hurt.


It was weird because it happened so fast but I could feel all the hard parts of the octopus on my face.

Kyle later compared the sensation to being whacked with a slimy towel. Painful, but a little gentler than a hard human slap. 

It was not a pleasant feeling by any means, but Kyle was grateful that he was only smacked by the tentacles and not, as he put it, “the main area” —  which he imagined could have been a whole lot grosser. How’s that for a glass half full attitude?!


The entire incident lasted just a few seconds, but every one of them must have felt like an eternity for poor Kyle. When the seal finally loosened its clenches enough to let the cephalopod free, Kyle breathed a huge sigh of relief and watched the last tentacle slowly slide down the kayak back into the water below.


The GoPro video captures the extraordinary howl that came out of Kyle’s mouth at this moment. But you almost don’t even need the audio to hear it… this photo says it all.

Taiyo later admitted that he and the others “instantly laughed so hard”, adding that “Kyle was a little more pained.”


Kyle’s experiences with fur seals had always been pleasant, friendly even. But this fellow was in a highly agitated state. Who knew what his next move would be? Plus, New Zealand fur seals aren’t exactly featherweights: males can grow as big as 350 pounds!

So Kyle made sure to double-check that the seal was heading on his way. Fortunately, it appeared that he was. Phew! The terrifying incident was finally over. 

Or so he thought.


Like something out of a horror movie, the octopus suddenly reemerged from the deep right to their kayak! Still as jumpy as a jackrabbit, Kyle slapped his paddle to try to keep the creature contained down in the water where it belonged.

He’d had started to feel kind of sorry for the octopus, who had really taken a thrashing from that frenzied fur seal. But this was just too much! Was the creature trying to fling itself back onto the kayak (and onto Kyle’s still-burning face)??


Admittedly, the idea that the octopus was plotting to reboard the kayak and attack Kyle was a touch far-fetched. On the other hand, octopuses are renowned in the animal kingdom for their superior intelligence — thanks in part to their scale-tipping brain-to-body ratio.

But it’s not just about brain size. It’s the number of brains: in addition to their central (donut-shaped) brain, octopuses have eight additional “mini-brains” — one in each arm. This unique neuromuscular configuration enables them to perform extraordinarily well-coordinated tasks. This critter, for example, has figured out how to open a screw-top jar!

Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia

Ok, fine, you’re probably saying. But what about that idea that the octopus was somehow targeting Kyle for a slimy assault? Isn’t that a bit paranoid? Actually, maybe not! The portion of octopus brains dedicated to vision is extremely large; because of this, researchers have found that the animals are capable of recognizing human faces.

What’s more, there’s some anecdotal evidence that octopuses may form personal opinions about those human faces. One New Zealand university reported that an octopus in their care took a strong disliking to one of the staff members — and squirted a jet of water at her every time she passed by!


According to his pals, Kyle began bellowing over and over, “There’s an octopus on my boat! There’s an octopus on my boat!” No doubt the others stifled a few snickers as their poor mate’s travails continued.

Taiyo had the composure and quick reflexes to reposition the GoPro to capture this extraordinary (and slightly terrifying) image.


The octopus clung on to the boat for quite a while until one of the group members finally detached it with his oar. Amazingly, the creature appeared unharmed and, according to Kyle, it “swam away to fight another day”. Now that’s one tough mollusk!


I don’t know who got a bigger fright: the seal, me, or the octopus.

Once he had a moment to take a breath, Kyle wanted to get a quick close-up view of his unwitting assailant. It didn’t look all that menacing in this position.

With the slimy incident safely behind him, Kyle remembered his appreciation of the astonishingly intelligent and adaptable creatures. Still, he didn’t need to have actual physical contact with one. He could appreciate it just fine from this distance, thank you very much!

This brings us to an obvious question: What in the world did the fur seal want with the gooey cephalopod? Was it merely using the creature as a weapon to take out the seal’s aggression on Kyle? No, of course not. Kyle was done with that paranoid thinking.

The answer can be summed up in one word: Lunch. Believe it or not, a big, slimy octopus is a favorite dish in New Zealand fur seal cuisine — chewy tentacles and all.

While they mostly make do with small fish and the occasional squid or small bird, fur seals never miss an opportunity to gobble up larger prey like octopuses and angel sharks or, in the southern range, even penguins. When given easy access, a fur seal can put down up to 15 pounds of octopus in a day!

Tj Holowaychuk

Some people who watched Kyle’s video of the incident commented that the seal looked like it was having fun hurling the mollusk about like a plaything. This is a possibility, as fur seals are known to occasionally play with their food.

The far more likely scenario, however, is that the seal was attempting to bring the creature into submission for consumption purposes. In fact, some experts say the seal may have been slamming the octopus against the kayak (and Kyle) for a little pre-dining tenderization. 

The animals love a tasty octopus so much that they’ll fight like hell to score one. Battles like the one Kyle and his pals witnessed are pretty common around Kaikoura, it turns out. Of course, a person finding themselves in the middle of this kind of wild kingdom confrontation isn’t exactly common. Plus, things don’t typically end as well for the mollusk as they did in this story.

Nick Hobgood

You’d think an octopus might stand a fighting chance. Thanks to their exceptional intelligence and multi-armed dexterity, the species has developed some pretty impressive defense mechanisms over time. For example, the tremoctopus violaceus (blanket octopus) has will carry venom-loaded tentacles from the Portuguese man o’ war to use as a weapon! 

One of the more frequently observed octopus self-preservation techniques is collecting and then assembling shells in a fortress-like protective wall. Just over in Sydney, Australia, the local octopuses are known to build entire underwater cities with their discarded shells! 

Another well-know defensive trick up an octopus’s sleeve is their incredible talent for instantly camouflaging to match their surroundings. Even more amazing is the Indonesian “mimic octopus”, which can recolor and reshape itself to impersonate another animal! To replicate a sea snake, the mimic octopus will hide six of its arms and extend the other two parallel to each other; to make a like a jellyfish, it inflates its mantle and trails its tentacles behind its body.


Despite the many self-preservation tools in the octopus’s armory, there’s not much it can do once in the clutches of a hungry fur seal. But that doesn’t mean it won’t try… which is exactly the conflict in which Kyle found himself entangled. If it weren’t for him getting in the way, the octopus would likely have been torn into bits. 

But we shouldn’t demonize the poor fur seal, either. They themselves are prey to multiple bigger creatures, including killer whales, leopard seals, and sea lions. And then there are humans.


Human beings have hunted fur seals for their fur from the beginning of time. New Zealand’s first people, the Maori, put a dent in the fur seal population. But the European settlers who arrived in the 18th century took it to another level. For nearly two centuries, the commercial fur trade gradually decimated the population — nearly to extinction. 

Thanks to modern conservation laws, the New Zealand fur seal population has enjoyed a major recovery and is now listed as a species of “Least Concern” on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Nonetheless, the animals still face a significant threat from the commercial fishing industry. Local fisheries are one of the main sources of death of New Zealand fur seals. Most often, the cause is drowning due to entanglement in nets. More grimly, however, they are sometimes shot by fishermen who see them as pests.


Thankfully, this story ended up happily all creatures involved — including as it turned out, the GoPro company. Kyle and Taiyo’s video of the incredible encounter quickly went viral after they posted it to Instagram. News outlets around the world picked up on the sensational story as well. The camera company’s marketing team couldn’t have planned better publicity if they’d tried. 

Reflecting back, Kyle laughingly summed up the shocking incident as a “moment of yuck”, and then he headed off in search of new adventures.