A quick-thinking girl escaped with her life after punching a shark as it attacked her in waist-deep waters off the coast of Florida in the US.

Caitlyn Taylor, 17, was at a sandbar with her softball team near the SunDestin Beach Resort and Hotel when the 1.5m shark grabbed her on Sunday.

"Caitlyn says she turned around and the head of it was coming towards her with a wave and she said she turned to swim back to shore and she says she felt it just grab her and lift her off of the bottom," the teen's mother, Tracey Taylor, told WHAS11.

She said Caitlyn broke free after punching the shark in the face, adding the teen is in good spirits despite her grisly injuries.

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Caitlyn, from the US state of Kentucky, shared photos on Twitter of her lacerated legs and six puncture wounds.

"Beyond lucky to be alive and well and thank you to everyone for the support and wishes and I'm going to be okay, love you guys," she wrote.

Her sister, Paige Taylor, added on Twitter: "It was such a traumatising event out there and I'm so lucky to still have my sister who is so strong and a such a fighter."

Caitlyn, a student at Atherton High School, was rushed to hospital, where her mother said she received more than 100 stitches.

"There's nothing minor about having to have 120-140 stitches," Mrs Taylor said.
"She has cuts on her hand and upper and lower jaw marks on both legs."

Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office said on Facebook that Caitlyn initially thought the shark was a dolphin.

"It was in a wave headed towards her. She says it took her by the legs, tugged on her, and immediately turned her loose," the office said.

"Caitlyn's friends estimated the shark to be about five feet long. The type of shark is undetermined."

Northwest Florida Daily reports the incident is only the fourth documented shark attack off Okaloosa County beaches since 1882.

The news comes as a bull shark was found washed up in the north Queensland region of Burdekin in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

Caitlyn Taylor. Photo / Whas11 ABC video
Caitlyn Taylor. Photo / Whas11 ABC video