A surfer who was bitten by a shark on the New South Wales Central Coast says it was like re-watching the Mick Fanning attack and he is lucky to have escaped with only minor injuries.
Justin Daniels, 42, from Berkeley Vale suffered minor puncture wounds to his left hand after being bitten close to shore about 6:15am at North Shelly Beach, north of Gosford.
“It easily could have taken my hand or arm or come back for me. I am lucky. It was frightening,” Mr Daniels said.
“You are being attacked by a live animal … It is survival, I was in a zone and I just wanted to get out of there.”
The father of two said it was like re-living the July shark attack on champion surfer Mick Fanning, which he watched on live television.
“I had to swim to my board, exactly [like that] situation. I didn’t face it like Mick did. I turned away and ran, swam,” Mr Daniels said.
He said the attack happened so close to shore if could have been any beachgoer attacked.
“Any child could be swimming in the gutter, anyone could have been going out for a swim,” Mr Daniels said.
“I wasn’t out on a bank or on a reef or deep water area. It was straight off the shore.
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“One of the first thoughts [I had was] my little daughter is five and she is already scared of sharks.”
Mr Daniels said he believed the shark was about six foot in length and came from underneath his board.
“All I remember is the loud thud of hitting my board and me going up so it must have come from underneath,” he said.
“I think what has happened is my hand was on the side of the board here when it hit me and that is where I got a tooth mark.
“I saw it was submerged, it was under me thrashing and I was just shaking and [trying] to break free. That is when I saw my board on the right side and swam towards my board.”
Surfers didn’t realise there was an attack until getting back to beach
Mr Daniels was treated at the scene by fellow surfer and off-duty Westpac rescue helicopter pilot Graeme Anderson.
Mr Anderson said a group of eight were surfing at the time and Mr Daniels was just paddling out when the shark came at him.
“The shark … nicked his hand as it came through and latched onto the nose of this board, shook him around for a little bit, pulled him off his board, or pulled the board away from him, then Justin was able to swim back to the beach,” he said.
“We all paddled into shore and examined Justin’s board. Once we got him up to the car park we assisted with first aid.”
He said when they were alerted to the attack in the water, most of the group did not believe it.
“Once we saw how frantic Sam [another surfer] was, we thought there’s something else going on here,” Mr Anderson said.
“It wasn’t until we actually got to the beach we realised there’d been an actual attack.
“Justin was pretty well shaken about but he handled it really well.”
Mr Anderson said a large seal and a lot of bait fish had recently been in the same area the 42-year-old man was attacked.
“We’ve had a rather large seal out in the surf with us for the last month or so, so there’s obviously a lot of bait fish around and the seal was there this morning at the same place where the shark attacked Justin,” he said.
Mr Anderson is part of a group of surfers that go to Shelly Beach early morning and said every now and then Mr Daniels joins them.
He said the attack had not worried him too much and he would try and go for another surf today.
“You won’t see them, but [sharks are] there all the time. It was just unfortunate Justin happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr Anderson said.
Shaun Hilton was also out surfing when the attack occurred and took a photo of Mr Daniels after the incident.
“The damage to his hand is relatively minor in consideration to what could of happened, but he’ll get some stitches and get his board fixed and he’ll be back in the water.”
‘Shark culling should be considered’
The attack is the first reported shark-related incident on the NSW Central Coast this year, but the 13th attack on the state’s coastline this year.
Mr Daniels acknowledged surfers and swimmers take a risk entering the water, but said shark culling should be considered as a potential solution to the increased attacks.
“I love animals as much as anyone but I am not going to sit here and say they shouldn’t cull them if there is a problem and relevant scientists deem there is an overpopulation,” he said.
Mr Daniels said with attacks “up and down the coast”, the water is not safe for surfers or swimmers.
A 65-year-old man suffered lacerations to the bone on his leg in a shark attack at Black Head Beach north of Forster, on the mid-north coast, on Friday.
While last month a bodyboarder was bitten by a shark at Lighthouse Beach, south of Port Macquarie, also on the mid-north coast. SLSNSW said at the time it hoped the attack was a one-off incident for the area.
Further up the north coast, a surfer was mauled to death in the Ballina area in February and 11 others have been attacked in recent months on the NSW north coast.
Surf Life Saving NSW said Shelly Beach was now closed after the attack.