WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES
A howling, "crazy strong" southeasterly wind will always pull the surfers into the water off the Taranaki coast.
On Tuesday, it was whipping up decent 2m waves because of a storm pushing through that toppled sheds and trees.
But in the murky surf somewhere down the district's iconic Surf Highway 45, south of New Plymouth, was an unknown visitor.
A broadnose sevengill shark.
Former professional and New Zealand representative skiier Tai Juneau, who has been living in Colorado the past six years, was getting among the waves and had caught about 10 of them by around 5pm.
As the 26-year-old sat on his board closer to shore, and three or four other surfers lingered out the back, he noticed a "little bit of stirring in the water".
"I didn't think much about it. I saw like a little flipper or something pop up initially and thought it was odd and around there was a bunch of disturbed water."
But it didn't look like a shark fin, he said, "so I was pretty relaxed about it".
There had been heavy rain and strong winds in the area in the preceding days which had stirred up the water, turning it murky.
"Then I caught a couple of waves in and was close on the inside section, paddling back out and when I was paddling I felt something hit my hand and I was like 'oh no', and lifted up my hand and one finger is drooping and my hand is all kind of messed up.
"I thought 'what the heck was that, that's not good'. I kind of looked around a bit and there was nothing around me."
Then he felt something tug at his leg rope.
"It was real quick though and I actually threw my board because I thought whatever it was might have been tangled in my leg rope and I didn't want to get it stuck with me, which was an odd reaction."
But whatever it was kept pulling.
"I gave two or three really big kicks, like I lifted my feet and pretty much hit it as hard as I could and connected really well into something.
"It felt really blubbery and weird. I was pretty lucky to get a hit on it because I couldn't see what was going on."
As Juneau continued to fight it off, he was still languishing in the water, off his board.
"At that point my board was stretched out and then I saw this big tail, like a metre long or so, just go and swish into the water.
"It looked like it was grey and I couldn't tell, it definitely looked more like a shark kind of shape. It was long and slender but ... there were no defining features. That was what was odd for the whole scenario."
By then he'd knew it had gone as it seemed to be moving fast.
At the same time, he jumped back on his board, yelled out to one of the surfers that he'd been bitten and caught the next wave back in - and he was back on solid ground within 30 seconds, he estimated.
He said throwing his board away from himself left him open to being a bigger target, but "my instinct is that they don't really go for people".
"It's probably worse if it gets tangled up and lashes out, you know. It honestly happened really quickly and you don't really know how you're going to react. But it was interesting that I was willing to throw a few kicks in," he laughed.
Being a shark lover, Juneau didn't want people to freak out about the incident and he knew it wasn't targeting him on purpose. He guessed he likely disturbed the shark, feeding on fish below.
Back on land, he got help from a fellow surfer who bandaged his hand up so he could drive back to his mother's house in Oakura, before she drove him to Taranaki Base Hospital.
There he was told some tendons on the end of his finger had been severed.
He had surgery on Thursday and is now facing a three-month recovery. He's due to fly back to the United States on Monday.
Juneau, who currently works making skis, wasn't 100 per cent sure it was a shark. But when questioned by the Herald, Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy said "oh absolutely".
"It may have been hunting bait fish, but with big sea and turbulent water it's hard to say.
"It's a bit close for comfort."
After hearing Juneau's description of the big fish, Duffy said while it will be recorded as "unidentified", it was most likely a broadnose sevengill shark.
The sevengill tends to feed around dawn and dusk, but like any shark won't turn its nose up at a feed.
The sevengills were also "fairly common" around the coast at this time of year and have been know to bite many Kiwis.
However, this would be the first shark attack on a human he has heard of since the fatal mauling at Waihī Beach which claimed the life of Cambridge 19-year-old Kaelah Marlow on January 7.
Duffy said he wasn't surprised to hear the shark swam off after being kicked as they didn't like to have to fight for their prey or put themselves at risk.
"A surfer is not an easy meal."
Duffy said sevengills got to about 3m in length and were "soft-bodied".
"And kicking one, especially kicking it in the side, would probably feel quite blubbery."
If it was a Great White or bronze whaler, it would feel a lot harder, he said.
"They are solid muscle, basically."
Bronze whalers had a large dorsal fin, which would have been more noticeable in the water.
Duffy said Juneau lashing out at it and kicking was the best thing to do, rather than just floating in the water.
It was likely the shark that took to Juneau was not alone as they tended to hunt in groups, he added.
Duffy said they were also the most common inshore sharks in New Zealand and cruised around the North Island's coast in winter and spring before heading to the cooler, South Island waters in summer.
As for why the shark bit his hand?
"It could have been attracted to the vibration as he's paddling along and it's grabbed at his hand, thinking that it's going for a bait fish."
He said sevengills were "a generalist predator" which was why it wasn't uncommon to hear of them biting people in New Zealand.
"They'll scavenge, they'll hunt prey and often it occurs in big groups and more than one will have a go. That's how they hunt seals, they hunt seals in groups.
"They feed on marine mammals and scavenge on just about anything."
THE BROADNOSE SEVENGILL SHARK
• The most common inshore shark in New Zealand.
• Known to bite people.
• Are "soft-bodied" creatures.
• Don't like to fight for prey.
• Grow up to 3m long.
• Hang around the North Island coastline in winter and spring.
• Dubbed "a generalist predator"; known to scavenge for food.
• Hunt in groups.
Between January 1852 and January 2020:
• Fatal - 10.
• Non-fatal - 51.
Data courtesy Clinton Duffy