This photograph is all about positioning and knowing your subject. Which means I have been in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing more than a few times.
Pelicans are all about gliding with the wind and thermals. A few flaps of their huge wings and they can glide inches above the water for long distances. Sometimes the long wing tips just skim over the water, barely touching the surface.
This was taken from a pier near commercial shrimping boats. The piers are in a short canal that allows the birds to catch the breeze just on the surface as they head towards the harbor and ocean.