A SURFER who lost the tips of two fingers after punching his way out of a bull shark attack has thanked his rescuers as he begins operations to repair bite wounds to his thigh.
The Wamberal man, 29, was sitting on his board off Kylie’s Beach, in the Crowdy Head National Park, yesterday morning when the two-metre-long shark launched at his right leg.
Senior Constable Chris Rowley, of Laurieton police, said the surfer immediately started punching at the shark’s nose as it attacked him multiple times.
‘‘I don’t know what the right way to turn the attack back on a shark is, but it appears punching it in the nose is a pretty good trick,’’ Mr Rowley said.
‘‘He is a pretty tough rooster.’’
The surfer has lost the tip of his left index finger and severely damaged the tip of his middle finger.
He has a large laceration – rather than a chunk bitten off – on his left thigh, but it missed major arteries.
The surfer paddled himself back to shore, where other campers and locals helped him.
The Westpac rescue helicopter flew the man to John Hunter Hospital for emergency surgery yesterday.
He was last night listed as in a stable condition with non life-threatening injuries and released a statement.
‘‘His family thanks everyone for their concern and best wishes,’’ it read.
‘‘ ... The family express their grati-tude to all those who assisted at the beach, as well as the emergency personnel who gave such rapid assistance.
‘‘They also thanked staff at the John Hunter Hospital who are caring for their loved one.’’
It is believed the man had been at the Indian Head camping ground with family and friends and entered the water about 10.15am.
He was surfing with friends when a pod of dolphins came through the waves.
About 10 minutes later, he was attacked. The shark is understood to have hit him three times.
‘‘He told us he was positive it was a bull shark about two metres long,’’ Senior Constable Rowley said.
‘‘He has also recovered a tooth, whether it be from his leg or his board I don’t know, and it will be sent to NSW Fisheries for confirmation.’’
Beaches from Crowdy Head to Camden Haven to the north had been closed as a precaution.
Surf Life Saving NSW spokeswoman Donna Wishart said the attack occurred at an unpatrolled beach in a "reasonably remote location".
Dean Storey, Surf Life Saving NSW lifesaving manager, said shark attacks were very rare and people were at far greater risk of drowning.