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Kayak-loving sea lion hitches ride with family

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Posted at 1:25 PM, Feb 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-18 13:25:34-05

Santa Barbara, Ca. - An California family enjoying the weekend in Santa Barbara had an unexpected passenger join them on a kayaking trip - giving them a friendly valentine's gift they will never forget.

Rodney Gist got an unexpected visitor on his kayak over the weekend in Santa Barbara.

He was with his 10-year old daughter and five year old son.

Then they noticed they weren't alone.

"I could feel something on the kayak it kind of rocked a little..then i looked back and there was a little sea lion on there," says daughter Leelee.

"Next thing I know he's snuggling up next to me," says Rodney

Nearby his wife and 8-year old daughter couldn't believe it.

"My wife is somewhat freaking out...thinking about this experience, this wild animal on board with us."

The sea lion pup didn't jump off for over an hour.

Getting so close to marine life or having them come close to you comes with some warnings.

Federal law and the marine mammal protection act says you need to stay 100 yards away from marine animals when possible, don't call them over or feed them - they can be unpredictable and some are carrying diseases.

But in this case it all worked out safely.

"About five, ten minutes in..I was able to touch him and pet him..and he was able to put his head up under my arm trying to get in my lap. I thought he was going to feel slimy ..he was more dry short-haired dog is what it felt like. "

"We finally brought him into shore..we brought the kayak back he rode with us all the way in."

"It was an awesome Valentines...it was absolutely incredible we had a great time with the family..it was an experience we couldn't ever duplicate...incredible "

There have been many sea lion sightings lately in local waters.

The younger ones at times are on shore and some look under weight by up to 40 pounds.

Experts say the food supply is not the same this year and that's causing some problems.

The small pup on the kayak in this encounter was not said to be ill or malnourished.