Shark bites teacher in Devon surfing incident

Rich Thomson was surfing off Bantham beach in south Devon when a metre-long shark bit his hand

It won’t go down as a great tale of derring-do on the high seas and it is very unlikely that a film or book deal will follow. But a teacher from Devon has a salty story to tell after an episode in which a “small shark” drew blood while he was surfing in south-west England.

Rich Thomson, 30, a chemistry teacher at Kingsbridge community college, was off Bantham beach in south Devon when he said he felt something grab him by the leg.

Shark 'bites surfer' at Bantham via @BBCNews

— Johnny Morris (@mojo90) June 7, 2017

He told the BBC he craned his neck and saw a 1 metre-long (3ft) shark. “I turned round and saw this little shark was on my thigh and wriggling its head side to side. I hit it on the head and it swam off. My hand was cut to pieces.”

He believes his thick winter wetsuit protected him from worse injury. “I had quite a sizable bruise about three inches [7.6cm] across,” he said.

“I went home and told my wife I was late because I had been bitten by a shark,” he said. “She said, ‘I’ve heard that one before’, but it was true.

“It won’t stop me going back in the water and it shouldn’t stop anyone. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The incident is being described by some as the first “shark attack” on a surfer in British waters but the Devon-based Shark Trust has expressed concern at such a reading of what happened.

Ali Hood, director of conservation, said: “The surfer contacted the trust some weeks back reporting a surprising encounter with what he believed to be a small 2ft long shark.” (The trust is surprised the shark appears to have grown by a foot since then).

BBC News - Shark 'bites surfer' at Bantham in Devon

— Johnny Morris (@mojo90) June 7, 2017

“It’s an intriguing incident but in the absence of first-hand information it will remain an enigma. We trust the graze on Mr Thomson’s hand has healed.”

There are several types of shark to be found close to British beaches and there has been speculation that the creature Thomson came upon was a smooth-hound. The trust is worried that Thomson’s tale may make water-users more suspicious of sharks and even harm tourism.

The surfer was at school on Thursday helping supervise exams. He has a couple of nicknames at school after the escapade – Shark Bait and Nemo.


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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