9 Feb 2014

Surfer punched shark, says witness

4:29 pm on 9 February 2014

A witness to a shark attack on a surfer at a beach near Invercargill says the victim punched the shark as it attacked him, before climbing back on his board and heading to shore.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

The 28-year-old surfer was in Southland Hospital in Invercargill after receiving three bite wounds to a leg, from his thigh to his calf.

The owner of the Catlins Surf School, Nick Smart, was taking a surfing lesson at Porpoise Bay Beach about 100 metres away from the surfer when the shark attacked about 8.20pm on Friday.

Mr Smart says the man punched the animal after being bitten and it swam away - he then caught a wave to shore and was tended to by a passing doctor before a helicopter took him to hospital.

He says it was most likely a seven-gill shark which was about 2.5 metres long that attacked the man.

Mr Smart says the surfer was conscious the whole time and kept very calm. He says the man has had surgery on his leg and should be released from hospital in two or three days.

A shark specialist says the surfer did the right thing by punching the shark.

Auckland University marine biologist Riley Elliott says that type of shark isn't predatory and hitting it was the right thing to do.

He says in doing so the man gave the shark a shock and made it realise that it wasn't something dead floating on the surface which it usually eats and so it let the man go.

Mr Elliott says there is no basis to suggest that the number of shark attacks is increasing.

People are advised not to swim in the Porpoise Bay Beach area until further notification from the Department of Conservation. Notices are being put up advising of the attack.