My brush with death

By ANITA HULM

IT was a bump in the surf that made it hard for Jimmy Clifton to sleep last night.

Jimmy, 10, of Cudgen, had a chunk taken out of his flipper as he caught his last wave back to land at Kingscliff Beach on Sunday.

When he got to the beach he realised most of one flipper was missing - just below the toehold.

His father, Mark, a keen surfer who had been bodyboarding with him for an hour, had gone back to the beach, and at 11.30am had told Jimmy to catch his last wave.

"I saw a black, oily shape which was lots of pilchards and they had dredged the sand up," Jimmy said. The pilchards surrounded him and it was then he felt a knock on the fin.

"It felt like one flipper had bumped against another," he said.

When he got to the beach and realised something had happened, Jimmy grabbed the flipper and showed his father who didn't believe what he was seeing.

They headed off to see Jimmy's mother, Robyn, who was at a netball carnival and her heart was in her mouth after she was told what had happened.

"I nearly died," Robyn said yesterday.

"I am just glad he wasn't paddling furiously with his arms and legs in the water and that he was just waiting for the wave."

Jimmy, a Year 5 pupil at Kingscliff Primary School, took the flipper to school yesterday for Show and Tell with his class.

Some did not believe his story and calls by the Daily News to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife, which has marine reserves along the NSW North Coast, was unable to find any similar incidents.

But the service suggested that the NSW Fisheries Department might be able to analyse the flipper and work out what had caused the damage.

Now Jimmy almost wishes he turned around and had a look at what had been behind him when it happened because he would know for sure - but that would probably would have made the nightmares a little too vivid.

"I might have panicked if I had turned around," he said.

And as for going back into the water? "I don't want to do it for a while," he said."I'll probably go out in a few days."



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