AUDIO: Shark bite victim 12 months after attack

BACK AT THE BEACH: Glen Folkard, left, in front of the shark tower at Redhead beach, where he was attacked last year. Picture Jonathan Carroll

BACK AT THE BEACH: Glen Folkard, left, in front of the shark tower at Redhead beach, where he was attacked last year. Picture Jonathan Carroll

SCARRED: Glen Lenny Folkard  has had six operations and skin grafts since being bitten 12 months ago. Picture Jonathan Carroll

SCARRED: Glen Lenny Folkard has had six operations and skin grafts since being bitten 12 months ago. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Glen and Angela with their children Ellie, 14, Cooper, 2, and Grace, 10.  Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Glen and Angela with their children Ellie, 14, Cooper, 2, and Grace, 10. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

SCARRED: Glen Lenny Folkard  has had six operations and skin grafts since being bitten 12 months ago. Picture Jonathan Carroll

SCARRED: Glen Lenny Folkard has had six operations and skin grafts since being bitten 12 months ago. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Glen and wife Angela with the wetsuit he was wearing when bitten.Picture Jonathan Carroll

Glen and wife Angela with the wetsuit he was wearing when bitten.Picture Jonathan Carroll

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IT might be the north-easterly breezes whipping their way around Redhead bluff.

Sometimes it is just a little rise in the water temperature or even a whisper of a school of baitfish down south.

But for the first time in 40 years, surfing tragic Glen ‘‘Lenny’’ Folkard is happy a bout of ‘‘surfer’s ear’’ is keeping him out of the water this summer.

As the days roll towards the first anniversary of when a bull shark changed his life forever, Lenny is discovering some disturbing little similarities that are bringing a few things back to the painful surface.

The 45-year-old former tattooist says he would probably still be able to surf, but there is something rather comforting knowing that the bad ear infection is keeping his feet on the burning sand of his beloved Redhead Beach.

‘‘It sort of suits me at the moment not to go out – there is a bit of spookiness there,’’ Lenny told the Herald.

‘‘The weather is the same. It’s the same conditions. It’s hot. There is a nor’easter.’’

But there were already some changes Lenny made during the winter months when he decided it was time to hit the waves again.

‘‘I cannot surf by myself, and my body won’t physically let me even wee in the ocean any more.

‘‘I used to surf for two or three hours, I stay out for an hour now. 

‘‘I have this prerequisite of one decent wave and then I come in happy.’’

In 13 days time, Lenny and his wife, Angela, and their three kids are holding a massive party at their Whitebridge home to say thank you to those who helped out in their hours of need exactly a year previously.

It has been a trying 12 months for the family of five since Lenny was bitten on the right thigh and buttock by the great white shark as he surfed at Redhead.

He battled through more than six operations and painful skin grafts, spent weeks in hospital and continues his rehabilitation now.

But the mental battle to regain his life has become as much  about the little things, like steaks, as the bigger things like nightmares and trepidation about how his kids are dealing with it.

‘‘[The wound], it’s like a butcher shop and I haven’t eaten a rump steak since,’’ he says.

‘‘The shape of this, looks like a rump steak. I might have a bit of ribeye here or there, but that is it.’’

Feelings that had been suppressed for a few months returned eight days ago when Luke Allan suffered an eerily similar attack near Laurieton – a bull shark grabbed onto his left leg and thigh before taking the tips of fingers as Mr Allan fought back.

‘‘Instantly you think of them and their family – and hopefully they are not missing too much and hopefully they are stable in hospital,’’ Lenny says.

‘‘And hopefully they are the strong enough kind of character to laugh at it.

‘‘You have to laugh at it after a while. It can do your head in if you let it.’’

Wife Angela added: ‘‘We had both got a bit emotional thinking he so easily couldn’t have been here this Christmas, and what would Christmas have been like.

‘‘And then that happened and I think for me – I said to Glen –  I really felt that sinking feeling in your chest thinking: does he have a wife, does he have children?

‘‘There are so many people who are freaking out around him now.

‘‘You know what it is like but you cannot really describe that feeling, and no one else understands it.’’

It has also proved helpful to laugh about with others who can. Lenny is now part of a very exclusive club of Australian shark attack survivors that hand out ‘‘shark bait’’ shirts to new members and prompted another survivor, Jon Hines, to joke ‘‘the initiation is a bit of a bitch’’.

They have their own get-togethers, forums and one-on-one chats.

Lenny says he owes a lot of his good mental health state to fellow survivor Dave Pearson, who he speaks to at least once a week.

‘‘You don’t want to come across as a whinger or a sook. 

‘‘There are a lot of people doing it worse than me, that’s for sure,’’ he says.

‘‘I just have an injury that everyone is interested in because it is a shark attack.’’

The Folkards are also wary of what the attack has done to their three children – Ellie, 14, Grace, 10, and Cooper, 2.

‘‘When there is another attack they see how it affects Glen and they notice that he doesn’t have the energy and the stamina he used to have,’’ Angela says.

‘‘They can see when he is in pain.

‘‘So it is a whole lifestyle change.’’

Keep track of baitfish

 GLEN  Folkard has called for a central database where water users can search for reported shark sightings and large schools of baitfish, which could be attracting the predators.  

Mr Folkard, 45, was attacked as he surfed at Redhead Beach on January 18 last year – a day which experts say was extraordinary in terms of the levels of baitfish and large sharks so close to shore.

The former tattoo artist is still recovering from the shark attack. 

He believed modern technology could allow a database to give people more accurate information so they they could make an informed decision about where and when they entered the water.

 ‘‘It may save someone’s neck one day.

‘‘There  were  a couple of sightings [of large sharks] on the day I got hit, but everyone in the water never knew,’’ Mr Folkard said.

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