There are stories of punching a shark in the nose during an attack, but a Taranaki surfer fought off one with his feet.
Tai Juneau was surfing in the waters off State Highway 45 when a shark bite severed his fingers, and the 26-year-old found himself in the water
“Instinctually” he started kicking.
Then Juneau felt his foot hit a “big blubbery thing” before seeing a half-metre-long tail swimming away through the sea.
“Kind of like it was running away,” he said.
Juneau, who has been living in the United States but spent most of his schooling years in New Plymouth, had been waiting about for the winds to turn offshore so he could hit the waves.
Tuesday, November 2, was the day, and Juneau, who was nearing the end of a three-month holiday, went out in the afternoon to a spot he would not reveal.
“I was treading waves with some guys for about an hour and had seen some funny [water] activity, but didn’t think anything of it.”
Twenty minutes later, while paddling back out after catching a wave, he felt something hit his hand.
He wasn’t in pain, but lifted his hand to find it was “all torn up”, with one of his fingers dangling.
“I was pretty disgusted and was in shock,” Juneau said. “Then I felt some tugs on my leg rope.”
Thinking about the time, Juneau jumped off his board and into the water.
“I didn’t want to give it a reason to lash out any more.”
Then, when he was in the water with the shark, he felt another tug.
“Instinctually I just gave some massive kicks and ended up connecting with one of them.”
After watching the shark swim away, Juneau yelled out to a fellow surfer that he thought he “just got bit by a shark”, before jumping back on his board “like a fleeing animal”.
Within 10 seconds he’d caught a wave and was soon on shore.
Juneau remembers thinking: “Did that really just happen?”
And although he “didn’t see any gnashing teeth as everyone imagines”, he was fairly certain it was a shark.
Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy told the NZ Herald it would have most likely been a broadnose sevengill shark.
Once onshore, a group helped Juneau wrap his hand. He was able to drive back to Oakura and then get a ride to Taranaki Base Hospital.
He had surgery on Thursday to repair the tendon, which was sliced in the ordeal. He does not know how many stitches he has, but knows it will be months before he has recovered.
Juneau can see the light-hearted side now, with his friends calling him “shark bait”, and said he was glad it happened when it did – his holiday is over and he is flying back to the US on Monday.
“If it happened at the start I would have been fuming.”