'First shark attack in UK' leaves surfer with bloody thumb just off the Cornish coast

Rich Thomson's hand was cut when he 'punched' the creature which bit him while surfing

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The Independent Online

A surfer was attacked by a shark in what is widely believed to be a first in UK waters – but he walked away with nothing more than an injured thumb.

Rich Thomson was surfing off the South Devon coast near Bantham, when a three foot long creature swam alongside his surfboard and bit him in the leg.

He told the BBC that he was minding his own business when he "felt this thing grab my leg". 

He said: "I sort of turned around thinking one of my friends crept up on me. I looked down and it was a tiny little shark, three foot long, going grrr on my thigh."

He gave it a “little hit” with his hand, and “off it swam”, he added. 

The 30-year-old teacher sustained a bruise on his thigh and his hand was cut up, “where [he] punched it.”

Experts believe it was a smooth hound shark, which can grow to over five feet in length and weigh over two stone. 

Mr Thomson said the children at his school have been making light of the situation, calling him “Nemo” and “sharkbait.”

He added that he had struggled to believe his story at first, because of its unusual nature. After he arrived home later that day and told his wife what happened, she responded: “I’ve heard that excuse before.”

Rich Thomson who has described how he hit a shark on the head after it bit him on the leg while he was in the water off Bantham in South Devon (BBC/PA Wire)


Teacher Thomson, 30, estimated the shark was about 3ft (1m) long while experts said it was the first incident of its type involving surfers in UK waters (BBC/PA Wire)


Injuries to the hand of surfer Rich Thomson, who has described how he hit a shark on the head after it bit him while he was in the water off Bantham in South Devon (BBC/PA Wire)

Despite the attack, Mr Thomson isn’t afraid to get back in the water. He said: “Let’s all get back out there, don’t worry about it.” 

Paul Cox, managing director Shark Trust, a UK charity working to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks told The Independent: “I personally wouldn't describe this as an attack because it creates an impression that's out of context.

“It's an interesting and slightly unusual incident involving one of the 30 or so types of shark that we're lucky enough to have living in British Seas."  

The chance of a shark attack in the UK was “vanishingly small”, he added.  

A number of news outlets have been calling this the "first shark attack in UK waters." When asked about any other shark attacks in the UK, Mr Cox said: "Fishermen handling sharks would commonly encounter small nips and skin abrasions.  

"It's unusual to hear about incidents in the water but maybe they've happened and not been reported."