Shark bites Nowra man in surf at Gerroa

Bob Smith from Nowra is recovering after being bitten by a shark while surfing at Gerroa on Sunday morning.

Bob Smith from Nowra is recovering after being bitten by a shark while surfing at Gerroa on Sunday morning.

BOB Smith’s first thought after a shark latched onto his leg was, "You’re not going to get me that easily."

Things weren’t great out in the water off Seven Mile Beach early on Sunday morning.

The sky was grey, the water murky, but the waves were alright and the water temperature was surprisingly warm.

The Nowra resident and his friend, Glenn Askew, had the surf to themselves apart from a couple who were swimming.

However, things took a dramatic turn for the worse at the end of Mr Smith’s third wave.

“I had just jumped off into shoulder-deep water and felt something brush my right leg,” he said.

“I instantly thought leg rope, and then it latched onto my left leg.

“It started thrashing. It was like a banging sensation.

“I thought, ‘You’re not going to get me that easily.'

“You know how people say you get more strength when things like this happen? Well I grabbed my longboard and pulled it right down into the water.

“I got on and the shark let go.

“But I didn’t even get a glimpse of it.”

Mr Smith’s friend paddled over to him.

“I said there’s a shark under me, and he caught the next wave in.”

“But my board was still pointing out and I had to dangle my leg in the water to turn it around.

“It was a horrible feeling.

“Then I paddled straight in, I wasn’t waiting for a wave.”

Once he was back on the beach Mr Smith saw most of his injuries, about 15 holes in his foot and ankle. He discovered more when he rolled the leg of his wetsuit up.

He lay on his board with blood dripping from his foot and lower leg.

Mr Askew mentioned the couple who were still swimming. He planned to paddle back out and bring them back to shore.

“I was a bit shook up. But there was still a guy and a girl out there," Mr Smith said.

“I didn’t really want to go back out. But I’ve got some conscience and when Glenn suggested paddling back out I said, 'Stuff it' and I paddled out with him to get them.

“They decided to swim back in. They had flippers so it didn’t take them long.”

After wrapping his foot in paper towels and a plastic bag Mr Smith made his way to Shoalhaven Hospital for treatment.

He suffered gashes and puncture wounds to his foot, ankle and lower leg.

“Thankfully, it wasn’t a man-eating 12-footer. It was a sneaky little blighter that took a bite,” he said.

“Since Sunday I spoke to a guy who said there were reports of bronze whalers down the coast, nipping people.

“The water is surprisingly warm for this time of the year.

“As a surfer sharks are always in the back of my mind.”

Mr Smith said his encounter with the shark would not stop him from surfing but he expected he would be apprehensive next time he enters the water.

“I think I’ll be a bit more choosy about going out when it looks so sharky,” he said.

Surfers at Congo near Moruya also turned and headed for shore after a shark sighting on Sunday.

The group of three spotted the shark following a group of dolphins close to where they were surfing about 100 metres from shore.

They made their way back to shore as “calmly as possible” and said they believed more shark sightings could be explained by the unusually warm water temperatures for this time of the year.

This autumn’s record breaking warm spell has been accompanied by unusually warm sea temperatures.

Following the fatal shark attack at Tathra in April, local fishermen remarked that the warm water and the quantity of bait fish were keeping the sharks around.

Stephen Buckless of Eden’s Southland Fish Supplies said his suppliers had seen an increased number of many shark species including bronze whalers and great whites.

“Fish stocks have increased and there are a lot of bait fish around here, and that’s what they eat,” Mr Buckless said.

“The water is also warmer and conditions are right for them at the moment.”

Researchers from the Australian Shark Attack File say 72 per cent of shark attacks in Australia occur in the warmer months from November to April.

Their findings show that while shark attacks have risen, it is more to do with the increasing human population than the sharks.

The study found that more people visiting beaches, a rise in the popularity of water-based fitness and recreational activities and people accessing previously isolated coastal areas were all factors.


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