Bite Club: It’s exclusive but you don’t want to join
It's the club no one wants to be a member of, and it is growing every year. Bite Club was set up by Dave Pearson after he was attacked by a shark at Crowdy Head on the mid north coast on March 23, in 2011.
The club now has over 500 members consisting of survivors, relatives of those who died, family members and first responders. They support each other in a way few can.
They understand the horrific experience of a face-to-face confrontation with a shark.
These members share their scars, their memories and the grief of lost ones.
DAVE PEARSON, March 23, 2011
Crowdy Head on the mid NSW north coast
I was looking at the bone thinking 'wow, bone really is white'
"It was about 5.30 in the afternoon. I was paddling back out after catching a wave and it came at me from just off the right hand side of the front of my board and came charging up from underneath and its bottom jaw got stuck in the board on the way through and the top jaw caught my arm between the surfboard and its top teeth," Pearson recalls.
"It flipped out of the water and then we both went under trapped together as my arm was stuck in its mouth. I didn't realise what was really happening but luckily its nose hit me on the right temple on the way through as well, so it rendered me semiconscious. Probably a good thing because they don't like being hit on the nose.
"We separated under the water and I got back to the surface and climbed on my board and looked at all the skin gone off my left forearm and a big flap hanging over the side and blood squirting everywhere and looking at the bone thinking 'wow, bone really is white,' and I realised then I had been hit by a shark."
Pearson tried to stop the bleeding and head back into shore before being swamped by several waves.
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"I got hit by a decent size wave and it broke on top of me and dragged me to the bottom and I came back up and got hit by another and proceeded to get hit by a few waves and I thought
I was going to drown. I thought 'I'm going to die today, not from a shark attack, but drowning' then I thought 'no, not today' so I pushed myself up to the surface and my mate Aaron and our other mate Sean paddled over.
"They helped me get out. I'd probably lost 30 to 40 per cent of my blood by then. I tried to stop the bleeding while they pulled me in. It wasn't until we got to the beach that we got some success with that."
The engineer by trade received over 140 stitches to patch his arm back up. He set up Bite Club to support other shark attack survivors and families of those who have died.
"I have over 300 shark attack survivor friends, so it's not rare in my world."
COLIN ROWLAND, 66, December 1, 2016
Booti Booti, Forster
Being propelled into the sky in a shark's mouth was pretty horrendous
With his foot stuck in the jaws of a great white after it came up from underneath him, Colin Rowland remembers the attack at Seven Mile Beach four years ago like it was yesterday. It was the fight of his life.
Rowland, a veteran surfer, had been out waiting for a wave when all of a sudden he was surrounded by a huge pod of dolphins.
"A strange thing happened with the dolphins came right around me. I didn't know what was going on, dolphins had swarmed around me, they came up and blocked out, so I don't know if the shark was trying to attack a dolphin, but I've been caught up with dolphins before. Then the shark came up," he says.
Out of the blue, he was hit from below with a force akin to a car.
"People don't realise the ferocity, the magnitude was unbelievable. I knew I was being attacked, I was taken into the sky about a metre inside the jaws of a shark.
"Being propelled into the sky in a shark's mouth was pretty horrendous.
"It was basically knocked silly because it put its head through the board and it still had the back half of the board stuck in its jaw. The board was in five pieces. I landed in the water next to it.
"After I took a breath, then it took me down under water like I was on the back of a speed boat. I was dragged under the ocean and trying to be eaten for that long was terrible. I was fighting for my life, he was trying to bite me in half. I snapped all the ligaments in both shoulders, ripped the cartilage in my knee, I was being dragged around. I was kicking it in the nose. It is unbelievable that I survived."
Surfer Billy Eitz, who was presented with a bravery award, came to his rescue.
"He thought there was only a torso left of me. And he was coming to get it so my family had something to bury," Rowland says.
Rowland made it to the shore, remarkably with only his heel missing.
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"My right heel was taken off the bone. I had 34 stitches and spent five months in the wheelchair. I still suffer pretty bad post-traumatic stress, it's hard to talk about it."
ZAC YOUNG, 19, November 30, 2013
Campbell's Beach north of Coffs Harbour
He said 'I pray for my friends, please keep them safe'. They were his last words.
ZAC Young was surfing with three other mates around 1pm on Saturday, November 30, 2013. His bereaved father Kevin Young recounts the attack that took his youngest son.
"It was a 20-minute paddle to reach a submerged reef called The Well of Campbells. "It was a good, fun wave his friends said and they were there around 1.30pm. Zac was sitting out the back when he got pulled under water by a shark that had grabbed both his legs and as the shark thrashed it lifted him out of the water. Zac hit it and it let go.
"Both his legs were broken and nearly severed. From everyone's account it was brutal and when he caught the next wave, everything was red. The boys could see the shark, it was still five or six metres away and there was blood everywhere when they came to help. Zac said to them 'I love you guys' before falling unconscious."
Then the deeply committed Christian came to again and said a prayer for his friends.
"He said 'I pray for my friends, please keep them safe'. They were his last words.
"His friends risked their lives to bring my son in. It took 20 minutes to get him to the beach. They tried CPR but, but Zac had bled out in the water," Colin Young says.
"I was at lunch in Nelson Bay with a friend when I got a call from police, but they would not say what it was.
"They sent a police car to meet me. The policeman arrived and said 'your son has been killed in a shark attack'."
NIXIE RYAN, 17, March 18, 2014
I was screaming 'shark, shark, get out of the water'
NYXIE Ryan was only 10 years old and enjoying an after school surf with her brother when she was bitten on the hand while surfing at Lennox Head.
Now 17, the HSC student still has issues with her thumb, which was saved after four-and-a-half hours of surgery.
"I was out surfing out the back and for my first wave, I turned around to catch it and then a shark came and bit my thumb. I only saw a splash after, I didn't see it coming.
"I didn't know what it was at first then I looked at my thumb and it was hanging off and I could see the bone. I was then screaming 'shark, shark, get out of the water'.
"Then I started paddling in with one arm. When I got to the beach, mum heard me screaming. I was taken to hospital in the ambulance and I got microsurgery to put it back together because it was hanging off.
"I have to get surgery again because I can't bend it."
For some reason, a rumour spread that she was bitten by a mackerel, but a puncture wound on an adjacent finger is a shark tooth mark.
"I don't surf by myself anymore," she said. Nyxie is a rising star on the surf circuit
SAM EDWARDES, February 16, 2019
I've got a huge, football-sized chunk out of my leg
SAM Edwardes had paddled out at Belongil Beach at Byron Bay early in the morning when he was attacked by a shark which took a large, football size chunk out of his left thigh.
"It was offshore, and quite nice surf. I was with a friend and we were the first in the water. I didn't see it coming, it was out of the blue. I knew instantly what was going on, I was hit really hard, like being hit by a car, and it was a huge bump. Then I was in its jaws. I could feel it shaking me, I was being belted around. It was all very quick and I had no control over the situation, but I think I was in its mouth for five to 10 seconds and then suddenly it was quiet.
"I remember coming up out of the water. I was instantly in shock but I grabbed my board and my instinct was to get out of the water. I was a long way out so it took two to three minutes to get in."
The 43-year-old teacher from Byron Bay survived the massive bite because the shark missed his femoral artery by millimetres.
"I've got a huge, football-sized chunk out of my leg. The surgeon removed the straggly skin and grafted skin on from my other leg. I feel incredibly lucky that I didn't die and lucky to still have use of my leg."
Edwardes lost a good friend, Tony Donoghue, 22, to a shark attack in 1999. The incident took place in Hardwicke Bay, Spencer Gulf, South Australia.
"There was a group of us and he went windsurfing and he was killed by a shark. That was a massive event in my life.
"I'm still surfing but I don't have the nerve to go out in the early morning."
JABEZ REITMAN, 41, February 8, 2015
Seven Mile Beach
put my hand in a big hole in my body and felt bone
JABEZ Reitman was sitting on his surfboard about 60 metres offshore at Seven Mile Beach just south of Byron Bay at around 6am when a shark suddenly breached out of the water.
"It was perfect, and my friend and I paddled out the back and all of a sudden it was like a washing machine turned on around us, and we realised we were sitting in a massive bait ball a couple of hundred metres long and 50 metres wide and that is when the dolphins turned up. We had dolphins smashing it all around us and I said to my friend 'don't freak out, when there are dolphins there are no sharks'. Then there was a splash next to me and I looked up thought it was a dolphin in the air about to land on me, so I pivoted sideways to take the weight and then it landed.
"The next thing I knew I was underwater getting shaken around, so I started to swim to the surface and I could feel something flapping on my back that wasn't quite right. When I got to surface and put my hand around my back, I put my hand in a big hole in my body and felt bone. I thought 'holy shit' and I screamed 'paddle, shark'.
"It was fight or flight mode. I paddled straight to the shore, screaming at my friend to 'get the f. k out of the water'.
The Ballina chef by trade drove himself to hospital.
"I got 69 stitches and had half a kilo of meat taken off my right shoulder. The next day, Tadashi Nakahara died at Ballina."
Originally published as Bite Club: It's exclusive but you don't want to join