Dan Murphy was surfing Cardiff By-the-Sea when a wiggly little creature jumped on his board and crawled up his back.
At first, the Cardiff resident thought he was being attacked. But as he turned around, he saw a sea lion pup hugging him, as if the animal were scared.
Murphy, a longtime surfer, was amazed. On that Sunday morning off the shore of San Elijo Campground, a friendship was formed, he said.
“You see a lot of wildlife. You see those pups around this time of year,” he said. “I’ve never seen them interact with people like that.”
Murphy said the pup did not appear malnourished and suspects he was one of the sea lions rehabilitated by SeaWorld trainers and then returned to the wild, as the little guy appeared so comfortable around humans.
The pup held on to Murphy for about 20 minutes before crawling into his lap “like a puppy,” he said.
“He spent well over an hour on my board,” Murphy said.
Murphy spent the next hour floating on his surf board with the sea lion pup, as his friend, Eileen Quintela, grabbed her camera from the shore and began snapping pictures.
When their human-sea lion bonding experience was over, Murphy said he had to nudge the pup off his board and say goodbye.
“I was literally in tears,” he said. “I waved to him.”