Surf Tips

HOW TO: Survive a Great White Shark Attack

Paddling out on a gray, overcast day at a beach on NSW’s Central coast our timing sucked, and a solid set nailed us to the inside for a good five minutes. It was me and a mate, Gav, other than that the usually crowded spot was empty. Release finally came, and we both got waves quickly and started paddling out again, Gav about 10 feet ahead of me. At that point
we noticed another mate, Luke Mahoney, paddling out down the line a bit, and I remember being thankful for another punter in the water. Gav reached the take off zone just before me, and sat up on his board to wait for a set. I stopped paddling just inside of him, still laying prone and drifting towards him, chatting about nothing much. And then it came, an unseen powerhouse sent me flying off into the most dreadful fear I’ve ever experienced.

I expected the second attack to come instantly, and the sense of anticipation was sickening. Somehow I got back onto my board untouched. By now I was screaming at Gav, who was only 10 feet away, that a shark was on the boil. Even when I was back on my board, I was horrified, expecting another attack any second. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest,
and even dipping my hands into the water to paddle took massive will power. A wave appeared and I missed it, something I feared would cost me my life.

Gav though had caught it, and Luke could easily have as well. I screamed at them not to leave me there, and Gav pulled straight off the wave, Luke also let it go, so that we could all get the next one in together. It was the gutsiest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ll never forget that.

Mercifully, we were all able to get the next wave in, and the relief I felt when I hit the shallow inside sandbar is beyond words. At this point I checked out the bottom of my board, and saw a 28 cm bite mark which also smashed in the rails, and next to it a big dent from the shark’s initial lunge, which split the board open right through to the deck. I staggered up the beach in shock, trying to come to grips with my incredible luck, checking the giant bite marks in the board, which somehow had only the shark’s blood in them and not mine.

Gav drove me home, all the while texting people to warn them to stay away from the spot. I wasn’t home 5 minutes before the phone started ringing, and it didn’t stop for two days. Worried and freaked out friends, police, newspapers, TV news, even good old Tracks. A shark expert concluded from the depth, spacing, shape and arc of the bite and teeth holes, as well as the vertical ambush technique employed by the animal, that the attack was made by a 2.6 m long Great White. Somehow, I’d survived, physically unscathed, an assault by probably the most efficient, ferocious and perfect predator to ever live on earth.


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