'I knew I'd been bitten as soon as the shark hit me'
HE WAS hoping to catch just three waves to start his day on the right note.
But Lee Jonsson's surfing session was cut short when he was attacked by a shark at Ballina's Shelly Beach about 7am last Wednesday.
The East Ballina man, 43, was now sporting 20 internal stitches after he was bitten while paddling out for his final wave.
The Ballina Public School teacher's aide fought the shark - believed to be a 2.6 metre great white - off with his surfboard.
"I knew I'd been bitten as soon as the shark hit me," Mr Jonsson said.
"I just swung around and saw it coming back at me a second time.
"I could see the back of it, the fin and the tail thrashing around.
"I knew that its head was coming towards me under the water so I was just spearing my board into the water."
Mr Jonsson said he had no idea whether the bite was serious until he reached the beach.
"When I was in the water with the shark, I didn't know how bad it was," he said.
"I just didn't know what to expect until I got to the sand ... looked down and saw the gash in my leg."
Initially, he wanted to drive himself to hospital, but a mate convinced him otherwise.
Mr Jonsson was treated at Ballina Hospital, then admitted to Lismore Base Hospital until Saturday.
His wife, Sam, was glad her husband was on the mend.
"We're just so happy he's home," she said.
"We didn't think he'd be this well so quick so it's been fantastic."
Mr Jonsson said the incident probably wouldn't keep him from the surf.
"I just want to heal it up and then I can get back into it," he said.
"I've said to a few mates it could have been worse.
"I didn't see the shark's eyes or mouth and if I had seen that it might have rattled me a little bit more."
Mr Jonsson said they'd been buoyed by the support of friends, neighbours and colleagues and were thankful to the hospital staff who treated him.
After the incident, there's been renewed debate about whether shark nets should be returned to the North Coast.
But Mr Jonsson said this might not have helped. He felt SMART drumlines and surveillance may help.
"For a lot of people ... it's like a false sense of security," he said.
"People thought the nets went the whole way along the beach but they didn't."
Unfortunately, the surf on Wednesday wasn't even particularly good.
"It was going to be a hot day," Mr Jonsson said.
"I thought I'd just go quickly to refresh before work, as you do.
"I thought to myself I'll go out and get three quick waves and I ended up catching two."