WA bodyboard champion went into 'Mick Fanning mode' to survive shark attack
Bodyboarder Noah Symmans says he went into "Mick Fanning" mode when a shark clamped onto his leg off a West Australian beach, and he started kicking it as hard as he could.
The 20-year-old from Albany, who won the national bodyboarding title in 2015, had been in the water at the Wedge off Pyramids Beach, near Mandurah, south of Perth, for a couple of hours on Sunday.
He had seen a big school of salmon when he and his friend Patrick Franklyn first went in, and moved closer to shore, but then paddled back out when they saw a few dolphins.
Noah Symmans said he's happy to be in one piece after a shark attacked him off Pyramids Beach in WA (Supplied)
"I always think it's safe when there's dolphins around, so I was pretty chilled," he told the ABC from his hospital bed in Royal Perth Hospital.
"And then about a couple of hours in we were just chatting in the line-up, and just felt something grab my leg and kinda pull me down, and I just went into attack mode, I guess, and got my other foot and booted it.
"I think it was in the face. And then kind of released."
"We just gunned it for the rocks and yeah, got out of there."
He did not see the shark at all, and still does not know what type it was.
But he remembered how three-times world champion Fanning had started hitting at a shark which knocked him off his board at Jeffreys Bay in 2015.
"When I punched it. I kind of went into that mode, I guess, not like he did. But with my foot. Booted it," he said.
"It kind of just released, cos I kind of felt it trying to drag me down. Honestly, it probably only had me for a couple of seconds, you know. And then it, I don't know if it didn't like the taste of me or whatever.
"It didn't feel like it was too large. I think it would have done a bit more of a number on me if it was a bit bigger."
He and his friend were about five metres off the rocks that line the shore at the Wedge and paddled straight for them, and climbed up.
Symmans won the national bodyboarding title in 2015 (Supplied)
"I just had a lot of adrenalin rushing, so I could do it all myself," he said.
"I wasn't even really feeling much pain. I was more shocked than he was, so he guided me and just told me to calm down.
"I was pretty calm but still a little stressed and just climbed up the rocks myself and after that, that's when the pain started kicking in little more."
Mr Franklyn then ran to the nearby Port Bouvard Surf Life Saving Club for help, and two lifeguards sprinted over within a minute or two and started first aid, applying a bandage and elevating his leg.
"They did a really good job," Symmans said, adding there was never a time he thought he would lose consciousness.
St John Ambulance officers and other witnesses said he was chatting to them and was in relatively good spirits despite what had just happened.
He was taken to hospital in the RAC rescue helicopter, where the wound was cleaned and bandaged again, with surgery likely to happen today.
"They reckon they even saw a tooth in there. So might get that out. Turn it into a necklace," he said.
He has deep puncture wounds on his foot and ankle, about two or three centimetres wide.
"Oh, man, I'm just happy. Happy to be in one piece and super lucky to be here. Yeah, I'm just so happy that I'm going to make a full recovery," he said.
Symmans plans on getting back in the water, but only when the waves are good and there are a few more bodyboarders or surfers out there "to get my confidence up".
'Grave concerns' after most recent attack
It is the third shark attack at Pyramids beach since 2014, when a 13-year-old boy was bitten on the leg that year, and an 18-year-old man received deep lacerations to his foot in 2015.
Symmans said something needed to be done about sharks.
"I don't know if culling's the answer," he said.
Noah Symmans said something needs to be done about shark attacks (Supplied)
"But I don't feel like doing nothing's the answer either. I feel like they have bred a lot, after they were listed as endangered species. Well, that's great whites, I don't know if a great white got me."
He said possibly more shark barriers could work.
Local man Brad Bedford agreed, saying there had been several shark sightings at Pyramids Beach this week.
His daughter and other children are due to start swimming lessons there in the coming weeks, but Mr Bradford wanted them moved to a pool until the State Government provided extra protection.
Nippers training is also held at Pyramids Beach.
"I hold grave concerns for the children at school swimming in that ocean with these sharks about, and I call on [Premier] Mark McGowan to do something about it," Mr Bedford said.
A spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the Government had offered $200,000 to the City of Mandurah for a new shark barrier at Falcon Beach, where surfer Ben Gerring was attacked and killed by a shark in 2016.
The spokeswoman added the City of Mandurah had identified Falcon Beach as the best location for the enclosure, and had not asked for one at Pyramids Beach.
Mr McGowan said he was pleased it appeared Symmans would recover.
He pointed to the Government's existing shark-mitigation measures, including helicopter patrols, shark tagging, the subsidies for shark deterrent devices and other enclosures.
On Saturday, Mr Kelly announced a scientific panel would advise the Government on shark mitigation, and an expansion of the Shark Smart alert website to an app.
In January, a smart drum line trial will be held off Gracetown, near Margaret River, where there have been several shark attack deaths in the past.
// NICOLAS PERPITCH
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