WA bodyboard champion went into 'Mick Fanning mode' to survive shark attack

Nicolas Perpitch
Swellnet Dispatch

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.

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


linez's picture
linez's picture
linez commented Monday, 12 Nov 2018 at 8:08am

All the best for your recovery mate.

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Monday, 12 Nov 2018 at 12:33pm

For what it's worth, there was a fair bit of activity in the water at Scarbs last week. Rays underfoot, salmon jumping, birds diving.

quokka's picture
quokka's picture
quokka commented Monday, 12 Nov 2018 at 3:17pm

"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."
Bullshit...Ben was attacked at Gearies, a shark barrier at Falcon Bay wouldn't have and won't help surfers. Dave Kelly you are a complete flog.

uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy commented Monday, 12 Nov 2018 at 5:21pm

in TBB style.
Libby Mettam Vasse MLA suggested 'volunteers' remove whale carcases from along the WA coastline.
WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson says whales carcases are not removed by the Local Council or volunteers, but are removed by Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).
DBCA procedures that decomposed whales must be left in place. Smells fishy.
Local surfers labelled the DBCA “too precious”.
Half of the capes closed with whale juice. Tourists leaving, air B&B considering removing whales.
The whales have spoken, no more blood bath on the limestone shores, tow us out to sea!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 13 Nov 2018 at 4:34pm

see my little Jaws story on P110 of 'What's What'. Truth is sadder than fiction.

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Tuesday, 13 Nov 2018 at 6:57pm

I'm glad there are people like you in the world Mister velocityjohnno.

monk's picture
monk's picture
monk commented Monday, 12 Nov 2018 at 5:28pm

Good summary UL. Fucking basket case the whale carcass issue - why do these things have result in such a bureaucratic cluster-fuck. Solution: Government (State or local I don't give a fuck) assesses if carcass can be towed or not. If it can be towed - tow it and dispose immediately. If not pay 10 guys (or girls) with large chainsaws to cut the thing to pieces and then tow to sea immediately. Does not take an pHD in economics to see that this would be money well spent for the region in tourist dollars saved. Sorry to see another attack - hope Noah recovers quickly and fully...

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Monday, 12 Nov 2018 at 8:10pm

Glad Noah is okay. Was in the SW area over the weekend from Victoria and damn it’s spooky surfing in that region. Didn’t paddle out at Lefties today because there were only a couple of guys out and it was very low light. Shark spotted near Rabbits on Saturday and water cleared by the chopper. Although we surfed there the next day. Surfed a beachie today with a mate and no one around. Felt a bit less vulnerable as it was clear water and not too far offshore. Not sure how the locals do it. I’d be looking for spots with a crowd every surf.

Ensea's picture
Ensea's picture
Ensea commented Tuesday, 13 Nov 2018 at 12:57am

Pretty simple. Get all the military choppers in the air & give the scout snipers some moving target practice and kill every single mother f:cking shark spotted until they can’t find no more. Uneducated hipsters can get f:cked. Either that or put salmon & tuna on endangered list. Common sense ain’t so common unfortunately

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Tuesday, 13 Nov 2018 at 9:33am

Highly evolved.

quokka's picture
quokka's picture
quokka commented Tuesday, 13 Nov 2018 at 4:26pm

Stop fishing sharks = more sharks...fucking simples cunts.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Tuesday, 13 Nov 2018 at 10:52pm

Gold Coast & Florida have the most Golf Courses/canals & the most Bull Sharks.
We automatically knew this but never wondered why! (Fertiliser is #1 Shark Berley)

These Aust /US sites have much in common...Blood/Bone/Fish/Fowl [Phosphorous] Run off.
Shark population depends upon it! All repeat Shark Attack sites deliver it in Spades.

US #1 Attack sites: East Coast Cape Canaveral (Nasa)+ West Coast San Diego (Naval Base)
Oceanside Treatment Plants/Ship-base Cleaning /Nurseries for countless Golf Courses.
These are the Worlds biggest shark dental clinics with free Blood 'n' bone fishy thickshakes.

Sydney + Newcastle present similar on a smaller scale. Oceanside Ship Clean/Airports /Golf.

Regional River & bay Golf & Airports follow the same Ballina/Lennox/Cid Bay
Some sites are Shark nurseries as Byron- Golf Course > Baywood [no swimming] >Tallow Ck
Fingal Bay is Shark Nursery+ Treatment Plant + Golf Courses run off into Nelson Bay.

Just as often you only need the Oceanside Golf Course 100% Berley spike to invite Attacks.
SA- Middletown has a dozen or so courses scattered about.
VIC- Bells
NSW-Bondi/Mona Vale/Shelly Beach/Seal Rocks

We're seeing a pattern...Who here thinks Golfers will forsake greens for browns?
Who thinks Airlines will dump fishy clean up for plant based?

1)Surfers/Fishermen must lobby Councils for Golf Course self containment.(Won't happen!)
2)Sponging up Phosphorous with Oysters/Seagrass/Mangroves is down to us.
We know our monsters! We can fight them on the beaches! Grab a Mop!

Cheer up Noah! Here's a treat for you!
Swellnetonians might recall we tabled Noah's National Title in recent Whomp off Gig...
Check out link below Noah...we love you!

uncle's picture
uncle's picture
uncle commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 5:52am

List the dozen Middleton golf courses for me.

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 6:16pm

Is it just me or did anyone else see the irony in this blokes name.

Sharks around here are commonly referred to NOAHs and I assumed that was pretty universal. Think it came from Noah's ARK(Shark).

Best wishes to the human Noah for recovery.


groovie's picture
groovie's picture
groovie commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 6:18am

Drum lines are the only solution here! they are relatively inexpensive & data indicates 90% of GWsharks leave the area afta being tagged & released. If you see schools of salmon or mullet = don't go surfing! Whale carcass=no surfing! common sense comes into play here!

groovie's picture
groovie's picture
groovie commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 6:20am

All the best Noah in your recovery!