Santa Barbara- S County

Swimmer Recovering From Sea Lion Encounter At Leadbetter Beach

Woman Bit By Seal Or Sea Lion

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A local ocean swimmer is recovering after a seal or sea lion bit her leg.

Maryejo del Meijer was attacked early Wednesday morning while swimming buoys with friends at Leadbetter Beach.

"I had seen a big black face popping out of the water," Meijer said.

The long-time ocean swimmer is used to seeing seals and sea lions during her swims, so she wasn't alarmed.

"At some point I was swimming over to the last buoy and I felt a nip on my fin. All of the sudden, I had this sea lion land on top of me. I felt a bite above my knee,"

Then, Meijer said her mind flashed back to the viral video of professional surfer Mick Fanning that she watched over and over again.

Fanning was pummeled by a shark during a surfing competition in South Africa on Sunday.

"I had been looking at his YouTube video.  It really had inspired me how he stayed calm and he fought. I thought wow, if that ever happens to me, I'll do the same thing. I'll fight," Meijer said.

As the animal circled back to strike again, Meijer fought back.

"I surprised myself because I actually wasn't that afraid. He was coming back at me again and I kicked him as much as I could with my fins and he backed off," Meijer said.

Meijer swam all the way back to shore and was bleeding profusely.

She said a homeless man helped her wrap her leg with a first aid kit.

Her wound was about an inch deep.

Meijer said she won't stay away from the ocean for very long.

"I really would love to get back in, but I'll have to wait until I'm healed up," she said.

Amanda Allen of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History tells KEYT/KCOY/KKFX sea lions and seals are naturally curious and playful by nature.

Allen said encounters like this happen but are uncommon and people should always try to keep their distance.

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