British doctor saves himself by punching shark in face during surfing attack in Australia

A 25-year-old British man escaped from a shark after “punching it in the face” while surfing in Australia, saying his feat was inspired by professional surfer Mick Fanning.

Charlie Fry, a doctor who moved to Australia two months ago to work, was surfing at Avoca beach, north of Sydney, when a shark leapt out of the water and bit him.

He said he heard a “massive thud” and initially thought it was a friend playing around but turned and “saw a shark’s head come out of the water with its teeth”.

“I turned to the right and I saw a shark’s head come out of the water with its teeth and I just punched it in the face,” he told Nine News.

“[I] got back on my board, shouted at my friends who were there and then managed to catch a wave in. So it was a bit of a close call.”

Dr Fry said he learnt of the escape technique from a YouTube video featuring an interview with Fanning, an Australian who famously punched a shark to  survive an attack during a surfing competition in South Africa in 2015.

“Me and my friends have just started surfing, and we saw the YouTube clip of Mick Fanning saying he punched [a shark] in the nose,” he said.

“So when it happened I was like, ‘Just do what Mick did, just punch it in the nose’.”

He added: “If you are watching or listening, Mick, I owe you a beer. Thank you very much.”

Dr Fry suffered minor scratches and bite wounds from the “hectic” encounter and was driven to hospital by his fellow surfers, who were also doctors. A rescue helicopter service later spotted a ten-foot shark near the site of the attack – a section of the beach known as “shark tower”.

“I didn’t feel the teeth going in, it felt like I was smacked, it felt like a hand, a hand grabbing me, shaking me,” Dr Fry said.

“I didn’t really notice it at the time, because when you’re surfing, all I was thinking was ‘I’m about to die’, and I was just … thinking about getting in [to shore] as fast as possible. You just ride the wave as long as you can and start paddling for your life.”

Dr Fry said he would take the week off and was “racing” to return to the water but might choose a different spot to surf.

“I probably wouldn’t go to that point for a while,” he said. 

“It is called ‘shark tower’ for a reason, so I will probably just go somewhere else. The surf was rubbish yesterday, so it wasn’t even worth it.”

Australia has had a spate of shark attacks in recent years, including one fatality and ten injuries this year.

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