THE mates of surfer who survived an attack by a great white shark near Byron Bay this morning say he was “stoked” to walk away, after his board was snapped in half.
Byron Bay local Abe McGrath, 35, was lying on his board off Main Beach in Iluka just after 6am when what is believed to have been a 3.5m-long great white shark hit him from underneath, snapping his board in half then piercing his hip.
“It bit all around his board, it’s hit in the middle and you can see the bite mark where the break is,” his mate Bryce Cameron, who was on the beach when it happened, said.
“The board has snapped in half straight away and that is when the shark’s teeth hit his leg.
“He got a good look at it. He said it was a 3.5m white pointer. In the big scheme of things that is a juvenile but it is still big enough to kill.”
“He was lying on his board, but if he had been sitting on it he would have lost a leg.”
Mr Cameron said the shark then had “a second go” at Mr McGrath’s board before he was able to “scramble” back to shore.
Mr McGrath was “stoked” to be alive and OK after the ordeal, Mr Cameron said.
“He was stoked, he wasn’t in shock yet, he was really happy to be alive and in front of his mates. We were all giving him big hugs and felt pretty lucky to have him there.”
Elijah “Hobbit” Colbey was the only other surfer out in the ocean with Mr McGrath when the shark attack happened.
“A good wave rolled past, we were both watching it, and then I looked back and saw Abe skimming across the water splashing.
“Then I hear f**k off, f**k off and then my nickname Hobbit being called out.
“I started paddling towards him for help and then my mind clicked to it being the worst possible outcome.”
Mr Colbey said a wave brought Mr McGrath back in to where he could stand up.
“I grabbed his two broken bits of surfboard and we looked at each other and counted our blessings that we could actually walk away,” he said.
“He was very stoked to be able to walk up the beach with me … we could look back on it and be very stoked but also shaken up and in shock.”
The pair then went to get a first aid kit to treat the gash on Mr McGrath’s right hip.
“I put a gauze bandage on him and wrapped it around his body and drove him to hospital,” he said.
They first went to Ballina Hospital, where he was treated for the bite, before being transferred to Lismore Hospital.
“He needed a few stitches and to have a bit of an x-ray for his hip,” Mr Colbey said.
NSWDPI confirmed it was investigating “a reported shark bite at Iluka today”.