updated 4/16/2007 8:32:13 AM ET 2007-04-16T12:32:13

A sea lion leaped out of the sea and attacked a 13-year-old girl as she surfed behind a speedboat off Australia’s west coast, a newspaper reported Sunday.

A marine scientist said the attack by the sea lion, which can grow to more than 880 pounds in weight but usually stay away from humans, was bizarre and that the sea lion may have been trying to play with the girl.

Ella Murphy had her jaw broken and lost three teeth after the sea lion attacked her on Friday as she was being towed on a surfboard behind a speedboat at Lancelin, a town 80 miles north of the Western Australia state capital of Perth, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.

“This thing just exploded in a full-on, frontal attack,” family friend Chris Thomas told the newspaper. “It jumped out of the water at her and hit her head on.”

Sydney Aquarium marine scientist Grant Willis said he had never heard of such an attack before.

“To be out in the water and be attacked like this is just bizarre,” he said.

Sea lions can be very territorial, but usually only attack humans when provoked.

“It might have been like a rag doll toy ... it could have been ... play for them, just wanting to shake it around,” Willis said of the attack.

Murphy was in a stable condition in hospital after having surgery, the newspaper reported.

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