A seal has been caught on camera trying to hitch a ride on a surf board – 40 miles inland. Keith the seal has become a local celebrity on the River Severn in Worcestershire after swimming upstream in January. But the grey seal pup – who is actually a female – is becoming accustomed to humans and stunned a group of paddleboarders as they travelled downstream at the weekend.
Keith joined pals Tristan Bawn, 34, Tony Bain, 48, Rob Yates, 41, and Dean Broad, 38, for ten minutes as they paddled near Gloucester. The group, from UK Active Outdoors, were in training for a charity trek down the 220 miles of the Severn on paddleboards, which they hope to achieve over nine days at the end of April.
Tristan said: “It was amazing. We were paddling along when all of a sudden I heard this sound, like heavy breathing. I looked back, and was shocked to see a cute grey seal staring back at me. It was really friendly and tame – it swam right up to my board, and started playing with us. It nipped my paddle and then tried to climb onto my board – I had to go down on my knees because I didn’t want the little critter toppling me in.
“I couldn’t believe it – you really don’t expect to meet a seal when you’re paddling 40 miles inland. The inquisitive creature was obviously on the hunt for food – but I couldn’t give it any, because I’m not in the habit of keeping fish in my pockets.” Tristan, a full-time paddleboard instructor from Bristol, added: “It was Keith – we matched the markings on neck. Oh, and Keith is actually a girl – a gender-confused grey seal, that lives far away from its natural habitat – you couldn’t make it up.”