Christian Bungate believes the foil board saved his life. Pic: Linda Sinclair
Christian and his three sons. Pic supplied: Christian Bungate/ABC
20 September 20
"I was off my board and on top of the bloody thing." A surfer has described the terrifying moment he fell on top of a huge shark after being knocked off his board in northern New South Wales a week after a fatal attack in the region.
Christian Bungate was about 50 metres off Cabarita Beach on a hydrofoil board on Wednesday afternoon when he saw a large shadow, about 80 centimetres wide, alongside him.
"It was like there was an oil slick next to me, it was so big," he said.
"It came up so slowly, and I literally shit myself and kicked it as hard as I could with my right leg."
As Mr Bungate attempted to get away the shark hit his board and sent him into the water. "I was off my board and on top of the bloody thing," he said.
"It was like I was submerged on a rock, it was so hard and rough."
As he managed to scramble off, the predator came at him with jaws gaping, but bit the board instead.
Mr Bungate was convinced if he had been on a standard surfboard rather than a foil board, which has a 70cm keel and wings instead of a fin, he would be dead.
"I'm 100 per cent sure if I was on a normal surfboard it would've given the shark clear access to get straight back at me and it probably would've taken out my stomach," he said.
"Instead it caught the wing of my foil board, hence why there's a bloody tooth in it."
Mr Bungate frantically paddled back to shore with his friend, Luke Fitcher, who witnessed the lucky escape.
"I could've kicked through concrete I was kicking so hard," Mr Bungate said. "I left my board and I crawled up the beach and I lay on my stomach bawling my eyes out.
"By this stage there are people watching it on the headland, running down, screaming."
It's not the first time the construction worker has had a lucky escape while surfing.
In 2009 while on a surf trip to Indonesia, he was out on a charter board when the Sumatra earthquake struck, and was confronted with absolute devastation when he returned to the island.
While the foil board may have prevented the shark from attacking him, Mr Bungate said he had heard reports sharks can be attracted by the board's vibrations.
Daryl McPhee, a shark expert from Bond University, said it was possible the sound of the board could draw a shark.
"In pop culture there's always a lot of focus on how sensitive sharks are at detecting blood in the water, but they're not as sensitive at that as most people think," he said.
"But one of their key senses at detecting is hearing — so actually detecting vibrations in the water."
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Mr Bungate's close encounter occurred about 25 kilometres south of Greenmount Beach, where a great white shark fatally mauled local surfer Nick Slater, 46, on September 8.
It was the first shark attack death on a Gold Coast beach since 1958.
Gold Coast lifesaving supervisor Nathan Fife said there had been a number of shark sightings in the region since the attack and it was important for swimmers and surfers to be on the lookout for warning signs.
"We have seen a lot of bait fish around and that is going to continue, we still have whales heading south," he said.
"We're telling people if they do see any bait balls, or see seagulls diving in the water please stay well away.
"Get out of the water and go and see our lifesavers and let them know so they can clear the water."
Mr Bungate said he had made tentative steps to getting back into the water.
"Yesterday I did have a swim but I only went out about two metres, rolled around and came back in," he said. "I've been in the water a lot since I was seven years old. I'm not giving up."
- AUTHORS: CATHY BORDER & GEMMA SAPWELL
- SOURCE: ABC GOLD COAST