UPDATE, 12pm: SHARK attack survivor Colin Rowland has spoken about the moment a large great white shark smashed into his surfboard and took a chunk out of his foot.
In a paid interview with television networks, the 62-year-old told reporters on Friday that he had seen a pod of dolphins swim towards him in the lead-up to the attack.
“The dolphins were completely underneath me, about six dolphins bundled up right underneath me and my surfboard,’’ Mr Rowland said from his John Hunter Hospital bed.
“And then it happened. I was just catapulted into the air and I thought the dolphins had caught up in my leg rope or something, but then I sort of looked around and saw the great white fin which was definitely over two foot in the old terms...it was monstrous.’’
IN his 54 years paddling through the surf, Colin Rowland had never seen a shark.
And even in the moments after a great white shark hit him with such force it propelled him into the air and snapped his board in two, the 62-year-old retired real estate agent still hadn’t seen one.
It was not until the predator, estimated by witnesses as being up to 3.5-metres long, returned to take a chunk out of Mr Rowland’s shattered board that the shocked Forster man saw what had hit him.
And that was just in time for the shark to pull Mr Rowland underwater via his leg rope before causing severe lacerations to the sole of his right foot and his right arm.
The Thursday morning attack is believed to be the first at the surf break known to locals as Bulls Paddock, at the southern end of Seven Mile Beach near Booti Booti National Park and the Ruins campground.
A mystery hero helped Mr Rowland ashore before he was treated at the scene for the puncture and slash wounds and flown by Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter to John Hunter Hospital for emergency surgery.
“He was in good spirits, he knew he was pretty lucky,’’ veteran rescue helicopter crewman Graham Nickisson said.
“He said he had surfed almost every day for 54 years and had never seen one before.
“He probably won’t want to see another one.’’
As he was being wheeled off the John Hunter Hospital helipad, Mr Rowland was even able to give a double thumbs up before telling awaiting media: “I’m a bit out of it but I am alive, that is the main thing’’.
Mr Rowland went into surgery on Thursday afternoon and was listed as being in a stable condition.
His son, James, and other family and friends were at his side.
Authorities closed Seven Mile Beach, Elizabeth Beach, Boomerang Beach and Blueys Beach for at least 24 hours, with a decision by stakeholders to be made on Friday.
The state government reacted by organising five “smart” drum lines to be immediately deployed off Booti Booti in a bid to catch the shark and relocate it.
The Department of Primary Industries said experts had looked at the damaged surfboard and confirmed the shark was a great white, although further investigation was needed before they could estimate whether its length was similar to eyewitness accounts of between 2.5 metres and 3.5 metres.
Hunter beachgoers were also aware of what could be lurking off the coast after Bar Beach, Dixon Beach and Merewether Beach were closed on Thursday afternoon after a shark sighting.