A great white shark attack at Baylys Beach isn't keeping locals out of the water - with plucky surfers braving the waves the morning after a man escaped the shark with bites and a bitten board.

The victim, a man in his 20s from Whangarei, suffered moderate injuries in the Northland attack, which happened around 6pm yesterday.

His surfboard wasn't so lucky - it was left with bite marks, a crack and a jagged tooth buried in the body of the board.

He was flown to Whangarei Hospital. A hospital spokesperson this morning said the man had been transferred to a ward, and was in a stable condition.

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The attack took place at Baylys Beach, near Dargaville - believed to be the first recorded attack in the Northland region.

Baylys Beach resident Ken Cashin had been keeping an eye on the water since watching the incident unfold on the beach below his property yesterday evening.

The beach had been fairly deserted earlier this morning, he said, but he had watched a couple of surfers jump on their boards around 9am and head out on to the waves.

A shark tooth is embedded in the surfboard belonging to a Whangaeri man who was attack by the shark off Baylys Beach. Photo / Supplied
A shark tooth is embedded in the surfboard belonging to a Whangaeri man who was attack by the shark off Baylys Beach. Photo / Supplied

"The surf today looks absolutely wonderful," he said.

"I think surfies would have quite a bit of fun this morning."

Cashin said it had been hard to tell just how bad the man's injuries were from his spot on the hill, though he had witnessed the man moving around following the attack.

"He did walk ... you can see in one of the photos he was standing talking to people near the ambulance."

Cashin ran a Facebook site where he uploaded photos of the Kauri Coast and Kaipara - so he snapped a few images of the incident to keep other locals updated.

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Another local had recently told him there were "plenty of sharks around".

This was the first shark attack he had heard of in the area in around two decades.

"We have a granddaughter who is just learning to surf - I think her mum's a bit concerned," Cashin said.

Dargaville Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Michael Ross said the victim was bitten in several places by the shark but was
Dargaville Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Michael Ross said the victim was bitten in several places by the shark but was "walking and talking". Photo / Ken Cashin

Dargaville Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Michael Ross said the victim was bitten in several places by the shark but was "walking and talking".

"It's got him in the hand, the elbow, a little bit on his mouth. He was definitely in pain and there was a bit of blood.

"I've lived here 45 years and I can't remember the last person who's been bitten by a shark out here," Ross said.

Ross and the police said they did not know what type of shark attacked the man.

But Department of Conservation marine scientist and shark expert Clinton Duffy said it was an "unmistakable" great white shark attack - probably a "reasonably-sized" one.

He pointed to the spacing between the teeth marks on the surfer's board and said the tooth left wedged in the board was from the lower jaw of a great white.

"The tooth [in the surfboard] is from the lower jaw of a great white and the bite pattern also shows it ... it's unmistakable."

Duffy said he would need to have a measurement of the tooth to know for sure the shark's size and if it was a juvenile or an adult.

The attack victim suffered moderate injuries in the incident and was flown to Whangarei Hospital for treatment. Photo / Ken Cashin
The attack victim suffered moderate injuries in the incident and was flown to Whangarei Hospital for treatment. Photo / Ken Cashin

"It's hard to say, but it looks like a reasonably-sized fish."

Even a juvenile great white was big - females matured at 4.5 to 5.2m and about 1800kg and males at 3.6m and 800kg.

Duffy said great whites were common around the Northland coast year round, but most inshore sightings were in summer.

Most people survived great white attacks because the attacks were characterised by a bite and release, he said.

There had been two or three other great white attacks off the Northland coast in recent years, among 113 unprovoked attacks on people by all types of sharks in New Zealand waters since 1840.

The shark "wouldn't even know" it had lost a tooth and a replacement would soon grow in its place, Duffy said.

Local Ken Cashin said the surf at Baylys looked
Local Ken Cashin said the surf at Baylys looked "absolutely wonderful" today. Photo / Ken Cashin

He had been tracking great whites in the Kaipara Harbour and they tended to move along the coast quite quickly, he said.

"That shark has probably moved on [from Baylys Beach]."

The beach was closed by police yesterday evening.

A police spokeswoman said the man was surfing at the time of the attack and received bites to his arm and hand.

"He paddled himself to shore following the attack. A man helped him after the attack by giving him a ride up the beach in his ute."

The man was collected by the rescue helicopter outside a shop on Seaview Rd, which happened to be called Sharkeys Takeaways, she said.

In records dating back to the 1850s, there have been fewer than 50 unprovoked, recorded attacks in New Zealand.

The last fatal shark attack was at Muriwai in 2013.