Linda Whitehurst shows where she received four stitches from an injury suffered while fighting a great white shark.
Linda Whitehurst shows where she received four stitches from an injury suffered while fighting a great white shark.

Woman survives fight with great white shark

I'M happy to be alive and to have all my limbs. They were the first words that Linda Whitehurst said after being released from Byron Bay Hospital yesterday. Just hours earlier she had been attacked by a three-metre great white shark off Main Beach. Ms Whitehurst and her husband Glen were about 150 metres from shore after paddling around to Wategos Beach and were heading back towards the surf club at the time of the attack. "We were riding the waves back in and I saw this big thing underneath me. At first I thought maybe it was a dolphin or a turtle so I kept paddling. "Then I turned around and saw this big dark object and I knew it was a shark. I thought 'Oh my God' and screamed and tried to scare the shark." Glen Whitehurst was paddling his own surf ski when he heard his wife scream and saw the shark attack her. "It lifted itself out of the water and onto the back of the boat. It had the back of her boat in its mouth and gave it a good shake," Mr Whitehurst said. Mr Whitehurst said his wife was knocked off her ski and she went under the water. At that stage he was "very concerned". "I thought this is it, he's going to grab my leg or ankle," said Ms Whitehurst. But the couple, described themselves as "competitive water sports people" had discussed what to do if they ever found themselves in a situation where they were attacked by a shark. Ms Whitehurst said she did not panic and that adrenalin took over. "I just tried making as much%motion and noise as I could to show the shark that I'm bigger and stronger than it," she said. "I got my blade (paddle) and was punching the shark in the face as hard as I could. "I saw a program on SBS TV just last week about sharks and surf skis. I'm fascinated by shark attacks," she said. "I saw that look in its eye that I've seen so many times before on TV," Ms Whitehurst said. "We've talked about it a lot," said Glen. The policy is if it goes for you, then you go for it." She managed to beat the shark away and swam back to her ski. Mr Whitehurst called out for her to swim over to his surf ski, but hers was closer. She managed to get back in and paddle herself to shore. "You just go; the adrenalin is pumping so fast that you can do anything," she said. Linda, a registered nurse, said she wasn't panicked once she was out of the water. Mr Whitehurst drove his wife to the hospital where she had four stitches inserted in a wound on her forearm, the injury received while hitting the shark. The couple said that they were looking forward to having a relaxing, romantic day together after their kids had gone back to school after two weeks of school holidays. The couple seemed surprisingly level-headed after their ordeal and were happy to talk to the media, saying they hoped their experience could help others who might find themselves in a similar situation. "Every year at this time there are great whites around here," Mr Whitehurst said. "Our friend George Greenough saw one last week. We know we live with them, it's their backyard." The beach was closed from The Pass to Main Beach Car Park from just after 11am and reopened at 2pm. Stephen Leahy, the co-ordinator of the Northern NSW Lifeguard Service said that the shark was spotted by the Brunswick Heads Coastal Patrol just after midday and shepherded back out to sea. "No beach is ever 100 per cent safe, but there is nothing to suggest that the shark is still in the area," he said. "We will work with the local police to continue to monitor the beaches over the next few days," he said. A group of English backpackers on the beach told The Northern Star they would go back in. "Maybe I won't go too deep though," said Mark Fenson. "I might send my friends in first," said Dean Cowan.



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