A surfer has told of his terrifying ordeal and said he “felt his foot hit the back of his leg” shortly after fending off a seal who he believed was “playing”. Nathan Phillips, 42, who has been labelled a “local surfing legend”, said the freak incident happened as he was being harassed by a seal while paddling out into the waves in Porthleven, Cornwall. The popular sea creature began pulling his board’s leash before “epic” waves then crashed down on him, sending his board flying into his leg.
Self-employed builder Nathan, who is expecting his second child with his partner, suffered an open fracture that had to be treated using a cocktail of antibiotics after the wound was left in “stinking” water as he desperately waited for an ambulance.
He was rescued by a friend and paddled half a mile to be treated by medics on land but in another blow, the 6ft 2in surfer’s height meant he could fit inside a smaller than usual replacement Cornwall Air Ambulance that had been sent to pick him up.
Nathan told PlymouthLive from his bed at Derriford Hospital: “I had just been paddling out and something started tugging on my leash. It kind of freaked me out because I didn’t know what it was.
“After I worked out that it was a seal and fended it off – it was just playing I think, but a wave then crashed down on me just after at a weird angle and sent my board flying into my shin.”
“I remembered my mate saying he thought my board had snapped because of the sound – but then I realised it had been my shin when I felt my foot hitting the back of my leg.
“I just started screaming with pain, and my mate dragged me onto his board and told me to start paddling back to shore.
“After dragging him behind me to the coast I sat there for maybe 40 minutes, and was eventually treated by medics – it was so painful, and I had to wait even longer in my mate’s van while I waited for an ambulance after I couldn’t fit in the air ambulance.”
The 42-year-old surfer was later taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske for an operation on his badly injured leg.
He added: “I’m in hospital now waiting for my next surgery – but I just had to thank everyone for helping me out.”
Nathan’s friends Alec and Jason set up a GoFundMe online donation page for him to help the surfer maintain an income during his recovery.
Donations have flooded in from the surfer community, with several thousand pounds already raised in the few days since the freak accident.
In 2021, the 42-year-old donated surfboards to a young boy and his dad who were travelling in a car that caught fire on the A30.
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Alec, who described Nathan as a “top bloke”, said: “We just wanted to do whatever we could to help him out. He’s currently on morphine waiting for surgery so the least we could do would be to set up a page to try and raise some money for him.
“He and his partner are expecting their next child in only a few weeks too, so it’s not the best time.”
Fellow friend Jason Dreyer said: “Nate Dawg is a humble and hard-working man, so this injury is going to put him out of work for the foreseeable. On top of that, he is five weeks away from becoming a father for the second time.
“Nate would be too proud to start this page himself, so as his close friend I’m going to throw it out there on his behalf. This legend needs our help.”
Alec suggested the seal who had harrassed Nathan before his accident meant no harm, saying the created are simply “inquisitive”.
He added: “We do get a lot of seals down here in Cornwall and they do try and play with you or mess about with you a bit sometimes. They’re inquisitive.”
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