A brave surfer has spoken of his dramatic fight with a shark after it leapt onto his board while catching waves off a Victorian beach.
Mark Byrne, 42, was surfing at Winkipop beach, near Torquay, yesterday morning when a five-foot shark lunged at him and clamped down on his board.
Terrified that he was going to die, the veteran surfer said he punched at what he thought was a gummy shark to escape.
“It kept on thrashing, so I turned around and punched it in the back of the head,” he said.
The father-of-five was forced to jump into the water to dislodge the defiant shark when it refused to budge.
“It didn’t move, so at that point I thought it best I get off the board.
“I flicked my leg off the board and waited for the shark to roll the board off and then jumped back on.”
Mr Byrne has surfed the same stretch of beach for eight years and said this was his first close encounter.
He admits he was overcome by terror and panic.
“At the time, when you recognise it’s a shark, I thought ‘that’s it, I’m done’,” he said. “I’m here today, so I’m pretty lucky I guess.”
Mr Byrne said a number of other surfers who witnessed the attack quickly dispersed and paddled towards the shore.
“I’ve never seen people paddle so fast away from me,” he said. “I looked around and I jumped back on the board and everyone was going in the other direction.”
Despite the scare, it has not put him off and he was back in the water today.
“I stayed in the water for another hour-and-a-half after the shark bumped me,” he said.
“I came back in the afternoon and had another surf.”
Having just undergone surgery for bowel cancer, Mr Byrne cannot believe he has cheated death twice in the past month.
He said it is a timely reminder to enjoy everyday as if it is your last.