SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. — A photographer taking pictures along a Florida beach captured more than a postcard image when he snapped a giant manta ray leaping from the waves in the background of a man surfing.
Rusty Escandell, 59, was taking photos with friends and family Sunday along the beach near Patrick Air Force Base when a giant manta ray leapt from the ocean and appeared midair behind a surfer, WSVN reported.
Escandell was using burst mode to capture several frames and did not realize what he captured on camera until he got home later.
“I kind of saw a splash behind the surfer, but didn’t think much of it,” he told CNN. “It could have been a fish, could have been anything.”
Escandell lives in Satellite Beach, where he owns an auto repair shop, CNN reported. He said he takes photos at the beach regularly. He did not know the surfer in the photo, but they have since met. Escandell hopes his widely viewed photo inspires people to “go out, live life and see nature,” WBBH reported.
Manta rays are a protected species and are of little danger to humans, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They have an average wingspan of 22 feet and can weigh up to 4,000 pounds.
Jessica Pate, a senior scientist at the Marine Megafauna Foundation, told CNN it is unclear why giant manta rays jump from the water, but suggested it could be part of a mating ritual, a way to remove parasites or a means to communicate because of the loud sound it creates.
No matter the reason, Escandell was pretty excited about the images he captured.
“It was pretty amazing,” he said.