Father surfs to safety after shark attack

By Greg Ansley

Michael Bedford may have been attacked by a great white. Photo / NIWA
Michael Bedford may have been attacked by a great white. Photo / NIWA

A 40-year-old father of two is recovering in hospital after surviving a shark attack while surfing with a friend on a remote Western Australian beach.

Michael Bedford punched the shark during two strikes on Sunday afternoon and managed to catch a wave to the beach as his mate Lee Cummuskey and a group of fishermen watched in horror.

Cummuskey had swum to shore only minutes earlier after breaking his leg rope in the heavy waves off Conspicuous Cliff Beach near Walpole, about 430km south of Perth on an isolated stretch of coast famed as a wilderness area.

"I just got in and looked back to see how Mick was going," he told ABC radio. "I saw an explosion of water and I knew straight away what had happened."

Cummuskey said Bedford had first seen the shark racing towards him about 20m away, and thought it was going to pass under him.

"But it suddenly came up and hit him. It hit him once and then came back a second time.

"Fortunately for Mick he fought the shark off ... and then he caught a wave.

"A wave came through [and he rode it] lying on his board all the way to the beach.

"I was running across to him. I could see him coming in and he had his arms and legs and everything and I thought maybe the shark had hit the board and not Mick. But as soon as he hit the beach he rolled off the board into the white water and I could see it was pretty ugly."

Cummuskey said Bedford had a bad cut above one knee, another on the rear of his leg, and several smaller injuries on his calf.

Fortunately it was the state's Foundation Day long weekend and - unusually for the area - there were other people on the beach.

Using a leg rope as a tourniquet and towels to stem the flow of blood, Cummuskey and a group of fishermen laid Bedford on his surfboard and used it as a stretcher to carry him about 100m down the beach, across a boardwalk, and up a stairway to the carpark.

One of the group ran ahead to the top of the rise to get a cellphone signal to call an ambulance.

Cummuskey said they had been helped by Bedford's courage during the 15 to 20-minute wait.

"He was unreal, Micko. He's a big guy, he's tough."

Cummuskey said Bedford had been lucky "in an unlucky kind of way".

He had been fortunate that a wave had come at the right time, lucky to have caught it and ridden it all the way to shore, and lucky others had been there to help.

Cummuskey said he would have not been able to treat and carry the 100kg surfer to safety by himself.

The species of shark responsible for the attack is not known, although Cummuskey said Bedford thought it might have been a great white: "He said it had a big white gut."

The attack was Australia's first for the year, according to records held by the Shark Research Institute at www.shark.org.au.

In the past decade there have been 104 attacks at the nation's beaches - 30 in Western Australia, including four of the 11 deaths.

- NZ Herald

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