"I thought, whale or shark…"
A woman who was hit by a Great White twelve days ago, the third attack on a surfer by a White on roughly the same stretch of coast in two months, has recalled the event in an interview with The Guardian.
Environmental scientist Chantelle Doyle, who is thirty-five, was surfing a weak two-foot swell at Shelley Beach in Port Macquarie with her boyfriend Mark Rapley when the White hit.
“As I was paddling, something hit me underneath the board with enough thrust to throw me up and off the board,” Doyle told The Guardian. “I just thought – ‘whale or shark’ – and I looked down and there was nothing grey. I felt something grab my leg – I think I yelled ‘Shark, shark, shark’. It grabbed me and I grabbed the board and it readjusted … There were three distinct readjustments of the jaws. I was holding on to the nose of my board. It was like being bitten by a dog – it’s painful but it’s more this intense pressure and squeezing and crushing.”
Rapley climbed onto the animal and started belting what he describes as feeling like “a professional boxing bag.”
“I was just flailing – Hail Mary punches – and I’m thinking ‘Just get the bloody hell off’. I was connecting, but after the first two it felt ineffectual… Chon’s leg was completely in its mouth,” said Rapley, who is haunted by the vision of the shark’s head and eyes.
The hit severed a nerve in Doyle’s leg. No moment and only limited feeling despite two major operations, the first a seven-hour marathon to repair damage to muscle, tendons, bone and nerves.
The second operation was a skin graft to cover a hole the size of an orange in Doyle’s calf.
It ain’t clear what’s going to happen to the stilt, but a prosthetic limb isn’t out of the picture.
Despite the injury, Doyle is using her new-found profile to raise money for a marine charity via crowdfunding.
“We’re not suddenly shark evangelists,” says Doyle. “But they are a keystone species and we want our kids to have a nicer environment. I’m actually proud that Australia has marine systems that are healthy and sharks are an integral part of that. Having sharks means you have higher densities of fish, and so we should be proud of that.”