October 15, 2007 / 7:47 AM / 10 years ago

Woman fights off shark attack in Australia

(Updates with quotes from shark attack survivor)

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, Oct 15 (Reuters) - An Australian woman fought off a Great White Shark on Monday after it knocked her into the water from her surf ski at a popular tourist beach.

"I thought this is it, he is going to grab my leg. I had my blade (paddle) and I just kept punching, punching, punching," Linda Whitehurst told local television.

Whitehurst suffered only small lacerations on her right arm in the fight with the 2.5-metre (eight-foot) shark, before scrambling back onto her surf ski and paddling to shore at Byron Bay’s famous surfing beach "The Pass" on Australia’s east coast.

"The shark circled the kayak (surf ski) and then swam directly at her," police inspector Owen King told local radio.

"She was able to (defend herself from) the shark by striking it in the mouth with the paddle from the kayak. The shark then took off and swam away from her."

Whitehurst was about 150 metres (450 feet) from shore.

Boats patrolled the area looking for the shark and people were advised not to go in the water. The beach reopened a few hours later.

Lifeguards said the attack was the second incident involving a Great White in less than a week.

"There was a similar incident last Tuesday when a man in a kayak was menaced by a Great White, about eight to 10 foot long, at Wategos Beach, just the next beach around from where this woman was attacked today," said lifeguard Stephen Leahy.

The attack was the second in Australia in three days.

A 31-year-old man was bitten by a bronze whaler shark on Saturday while spearfishing off a charter boat on the Great Barrier Reef.

Sharks, even Great Whites, are protected in Australia.

An Australian abalone diver miraculously escaped a Great White Shark attack in January after the shark half-swallowed him head first.

The diver’s lead weight vest saved his life by stopping the shark’s teeth from biting him in half and the shark then released the diver.

Australia had six shark attacks in 2006, according to the U.S.-based International Shark Attack File. There were 62 shark attacks worldwide in 2006.




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