The seal in the ocean at Manly beach.
© Kemble Cowan
The seal in the ocean at Manly beach.
A  surfer was shocked when he was bitten by a seal and left needing surgery.

Nathan Shepherd was attacked by the Australian fur seal off Shelly Beach on Sunday afternoon. The creature also went after three surfers, knocking one into the ocean and grabbing hold of their boards with its teeth.

The dad-of-two was due to have an operation tonight to stitch the puncture wound on his arm.

The Manly lawyer said at first he was amazed the creature was swimming so close on Sunday afternoon - until it turned aggressive.

Mr Shepherd, 45, said: "It was swimming next to me for a few seconds. I didn't think anything of it.

"I thought it was amazing to be out with a seal. It was swimming closer to me. It swam quite fast - it jumped out of the water and bit me on the upper arm.

Northern Beaches man Nathan Shepherd said at first he was amazed the creature was swimming so close on Sunday afternoon – until it turned aggressive.
© Troy Snook
Northern Beaches man Nathan Shepherd said at first he was amazed the creature was swimming so close on Sunday afternoon – until it turned aggressive.

"I tried to bring the surfboard down on top of it, and then to put the surfboard between me and the seal, and then I got back on the board and paddled to shore."

Mr Shepherd, who has children Noah, 9, and Asher, 6, with his wife Miriam, was taken to Manly Hospital by a man at the beach who had seen the attack.

He was left with a puncture wound to his right arm, and was treated with antibiotics given to shark attack victims ahead of surgery.

"It's like a tooth mark. It's deep," he said. "It was a freak occurrence."

He is now keen to find the man who took him to hospital to say thank you - and pay for his car to be cleaned, as he was bleeding.

Wife Miriam said she got a message from her husband saying he had been bitten by a seal. "My first thought was 'thank God it's not a shark'," she said.

The same animal knocked a surfer off his board and grabbed hold of his and another man's boards at Manly Beach around an hour earlier, before following them to the beach.

Experts say people got way too close when the seal beached at Manly.
© Kemble Cowan
Experts say people got way too close when the seal beached at Manly.
Peter Fitzhardinge, 54, from Balgowlah, Tom Wallington, 26, and Alex Lipman, 27, both from Bondi, were waiting for a wave when they spotted the seal.

It knocked Mr Wallington off, then sunk its teeth into both his and Mr Fitzhardinge's soft surfboards.

Mr Wallington, said: "It was coming close and it looked quite playful. It was floating around for five minutes. It literally came from underneath me and knocked me right off the board with some pretty big force.

"I've got two big bite marks on there. It was some serious force."

It even hung onto Mr Fitzhardinge's board all the way back to the beach. "It clamped its jaws down on the nose of the board and it wouldn't let go," he said.

Peter Fitzhardinge with the board bitten by a seal at Manly

Peter Fitzhardinge with the board bitten by a seal at Manly
"I got into the water and started paddling to shore but it was grabbing on the back of the board - I could feel this dead weight. It followed me towards the shore. I got out and then it beached itself."

SLS patroller Victoria O'Halloran, 43, from Clontarf said she tried to keep people away from the seal on the beach. "It was incredibly aggressive. I've never seen anything like it," she said.

Experts warned the public not to get close to seals. Humans should stay 40m away on land, 10m in water.

Shona Lorigan from ORRCA Marine Mammal Rescue and Research, said the organisation sent somebody out to look for the creature, but could not find it.

"I am sorry for the surfer - it must have been frightening," she said. "Marine mammals are wild animals and if they feel threatened or provoked they will defend themselves.

"If that seal had all those people around it on land, it is feeling threatened. People are well and truly too close."