Shark tosses surfer

CLOSE SHAVE: Zac Skyring and his father Nigel, of Broken Head, show the damage to Zac’s wetsuit and the compression mark on his surfboard after his brush with a shark at Broken Head yesterday.
CLOSE SHAVE: Zac Skyring and his father Nigel, of Broken Head, show the damage to Zac’s wetsuit and the compression mark on his surfboard after his brush with a shark at Broken Head yesterday. Jay Cronan

ZAC SKYRING had one hell of a story to tell his schoolmates yesterday.

The 14-year-old Xavier College Skennars Head student was surfing at Broken Head early yesterday morning when he and a shark collided, knocking Zac off his board and into the air.

“All I saw was a big glint of white and I went flying,” Zac, of Broken Head, said.

The impact knocked his surfboard into his face and gave him a split lip, which started bleeding profusely. His wetsuit was punctured and he was left with three distinct tooth marks in his arm. After a moment of stunned disbelief, Zac jumped back on his board and high-tailed it back toward shore.

His father Nigel, who was paddling out behind him, saw the whole thing.

“He'd just got his first wave and was heading up on to another one,” he said.

“Just as he got to the top I saw this brown thing come through the water and I saw him catapult off his board.

“I instantly thought - my God.”

Mr Skyring paddled over to Zac, saw blood coming from his mouth and assumed the worst.

“I thought he'd been bitten on his side and had an internal injury,” he said. Much to his relief, he saw Zac was in one piece and they paddled back to shore.

“He was a bit pasty and shaky for a while, but once we got home he got on the phone to one of his mates and debriefed, and he was okay after that,” Mr Skyring said.

Zac insisted on going to school, where he recounted the story to his friends.

Mr Skyring believes the shark was a bronze whaler, about 1.5 metres long, and said it was probably chasing a school of baitfish when it collided with Zac.

“I think it hit him and realised he wasn't a fish so it let him go,” he said.

Zac and his dad, who have been surfing together for over a decade, stressed that they had no problem with sharks and did not want to cause fear or alarm.

“We strongly believe that we (surfers) are in their domain,” Mr Sky- ring said.

Yesterday's encounter certainly hasn't deterred Zac. “I'll be back in their tomorrow,” he said.

Zac's encounter came as the shark season ramps up in line with the migration of fish they feed on.

“(Shark season) seems to correspond with the run of Australian salmon up the coast,” fishing magazine editor and Northern Star correspondent Tony Zann said. But he said shark attacks could happen at any time.

  • October 2007: Linda Whitehurst, 52, fights off a white pointer with her surf ski paddle at Byron Bay.
  • November 2007: Two teenage girls cling to The Wreck at Byron Bay for half an hour after spotting a shark in the water.
  • April 2008: Peter Edmonds, 16, dies after a shark attack at Ballina.
  • September 2008: Gold Coast surfer Ben Vining, 29, is knocked off his surfboard at Tallow Beach, Byron Bay.

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OPINION: Surfers treat sharks with respect, not fear

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