The biggest secret to seeing seals close up while kayaking shouldn’t be a secret at all… It’s simply to remember to look behind yourself. It is illegal to approach a seal too closely (federal marine mammal act), but it is not illegal for them to approach you. So let them do the hard work and stay out of trouble yourself.
Seals can be curious, outgoing and social creatures, however after hundreds of years of being hunted by people they can also be rather shy and skittish, especially if you go charging after them in your kayak (or other boat). If you respect them and give them space, their curiosity will often get the better of them and they will actually come towards you, and you will find them closer than if you had tried approaching them.
Often though, for them to approach to their very closest, they will try and sneak up on you so that they can watch you without your knowing. This means that after they have arrived fairly close, they will dive down and come up behind you. They feel safer this way, seeing without being seen, and so if you remember to turn and look behind from time to time you might just be surprised to see that you are the one being watched.
While having a long lens on your camera can be great for taking photographs of wildlife from your kayak, it can also help your image if the seals come to you, giving you a close up no matter what camera you are using. For more tips try reading Kayak wildlife photography tips.