Now Australian school teacher David Sheridan knows how Jonah felt - or near enough.
As this amazing picture shows, a huge whale suddenly rose up close to the surface as the 42-year-old New South Wales man was riding his kiteboard - a small surfboard suspended beneath a large kite.
Seconds after this photo was snapped remotely by David's camera, mounted on the kite apparatus, the whale flicked up its tail and gave him an almighty blow on the back of his head.
Because the camera was programmed to take pictures every 10 seconds it missed the moment when the whale struck David - but this incredible shot of the massive creature swimming beneath him is reminder enough of his close encounter.
Seconds after this photo was snapped remotely by David Sheridan's camera, the whale flicked up its tail and gave him an almighty blow on the back of his head
'It all happened so fast that all I could do was crouch down as the whale swam under me,' David said.
'I saw the huge shape and my reaction was to duck while remaining attached to the flying lines from the sail above me.
'The next thing I felt was its tail come up and hit me on the back of the head.
'I honestly thought I was gone - it was such a forceful blow - but then the whale eased off and I was able to sail away.
'But my legs were really shaking. I've never been through anything like that before and probably never will again.'
David told Sydney's Daily Telegraph he had gone to Valla Beach, on the north coast of New South Wales, for an afternoon of kiteboarding with two friends.
Because he wanted some unique photos of himself, he set up a camera on the sail that would haul him skywards so that he could then skim across the surface of the water - a dramatic sport that leaves beach-side spectators fascinated.
'The camera was set to start firing off shots every 10 seconds as soon as I hit the water. When the sail was at full height the camera was about 25m above the surface.
'It was a lucky shot to snap the whale as it came up underneath me.
'It would have been great to have got a picture a second later when the tail came up and hit me in the back of the head, but you take what you get.'
He said he believed the whale was content to scare him away, rather than lash out aggressively.
'It was more of a push than a punch. I expected more.'
Wildlife experts have identified the creature as a southern right whale, which gets its name from old-time hunters who believed the species were the 'right' whales to hunt because they were large, slow moving and floated when they were killed. They also provided large amounts of oil and bone.
'Southern right whales are more unpredictable than humpbacks,' said Mr Jeff Ross of the National parks and Wildlife Service.
'It's possible this one had a calf it was protecting, or was simply just reacting to the movement on the surface.'
Pictured: Kiteboarder's close encounter with a huge whale | Mail Online