Paddleboarders spot massive sunfish beneath them off California coast

Sunfish typically live 60 to 120 miles offshore and hunt at depths with very cold water

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. – Holy mola mola!

Rich German and his friend Matthew Wheaton came across a sunfish basking in the sun while they were paddleboarding off the coast of Laguna Beach, California, on Dec. 2.

Sunfish, also known as mola mola, typically live 60 to 120 miles offshore and hunt at depths with very cold water. They come to the surface to float motionless to increase their body temperature from the sun.


"According to the internet, the largest one on record is 8 feet 11 inches," German said in a social media post. "We didn’t have a measuring tape, but Matt’s board is 14 foot long and the fish sure looked a solid 9 feet-plus. Always fun to witness one of these interesting creatures."

Ocean sunfish holds the record as the world’s largest bony fish, reaching a maximum weight of 5,000 pounds, according to the National Park Service. When swimming upright, they are often mistaken for sharks because of the way their dorsal fin rises from the water.

The gentle giants are typically found in near-shore oceans all over the globe and are more common closer to the equator in waters warmer than 54 degrees, the NPS said.

Populations of ocean sunfish are decreasing and listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.