A kayaker in North Carolina got a heart-stopping surprise Sunday when an alligator rammed him and knocked him into the river.
Video of the incident shows an alligator lurking up then powering its head and body into Peter Joyce's kayak while he was out paddling on the Waccamaw River.
"I thought I heard a fish jump to my left — turned out not to be a fish," Joyce told WECT "About three feet from the kayak I made out the head of the gator and that was it, I had no time to react."
Joyce was wearing a camera on his head that captured the entire episode. After the animal rammed into his kayak, Joyce tipped over into the water. The video shows Joyce come back to the surface and take several heavy breathes as he regains his composure and grabs his paddle.
He then slowly backs away from a tree that he had been resting up against, turns and paddles away swiftly.
"That's what I thought about was that the thing was going to go for a second hit or something," he told CNN.
Joyce, who works as a firefighter and paramedic, told CNN he's an experienced kayaker who has seen alligators before — just never one that charged him.
"Usually they make a splash or move and make a ruckus in the water," he told WECT. "But this was a continuous charge from about 20 feet away. It definitely made me think a little bit differently what their capabilities are."
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, male alligators in the state can reach up to 13 feet and 500 pounds while females may reach nine feet and 200 pounds.
The animals usually won't attack humans unprovoked, however, a female may actively defend her nest and young. Mating season ended last month, according to the wildlife resource commission.
Joyce said he's hoping to kayak the entire 140-mile river in segments but that he'll wait to return to the segment where the alligator was until winter, when the reptiles are inactive.
"I have a different appreciation of the animal," he told CNN. "I mean once it comes after you one good time you look at it a little differently."
Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alligator rams kayak into North Carolina Waccamaw River: viral video