Surfer skirmishes with shark

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 18/04/2011
Laine Hobson
MARTIN DE RUYTER/The Nelson Mail
LUCKY ESCAPE: Laine Hobson was attacked by a shark while surfing at Snapper Pt on Saturday. His hand was injured during the attack.

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Nelson surfer Laine Hobson's wrestle with a two-metre shark in the water off Snapper Pt on Saturday has left him with a punctured hand and a healthier respect for creatures that lurk in the deep.

The experienced surfer knew straight away what had nudged him in the right thigh as he waited in the waves off the Boulder Bank just south of the Glen.

The shark lingered long enough for him to make out the blunt snout and its reddy, bronze colour which led him to believe it was a bronze whaler.

It was when the shark came back for another nudge, then leapt thrashing on to his board that he knew things were getting a little too serious. By then there was blood in the water too.

"It wasn't like Jaws coming at me viciously. It came up and nudged me on the thigh while I was sitting on my board. It gave me a shock but I pushed it away with my hand then it cruised around in front of me and gave me another nudge on the other leg.

"I was then trying to keep the board between me and the shark – I was probably screaming by then – there was another guy close to me. Then the shark nudged me off my board and leapt on top of it and was thrashing about."

Mr Hobson, a teacher at Nelson Intermediate School, had been in the water for about two hours on Saturday afternoon. It was his first time back surfing in a year after breaking his leg badly while playing soccer with students. At first he was one of eight in the water and then six as two surfers got out before the attack.

Mr Hobson was not sure how his hand was injured but he was left with a deep puncture wound in it, which bled profusely in the water.

"Everyone was out of the water at that point. It was quite horrible actually because this wave came along and picked up everyone else and carried them in, but it missed me. I couldn't get a break.

"I don't know if the shark followed me in. I was concentrating on the shore and going as fast as I could, while trying to keep my toes out of the water."

Mr Hobson learned to surf in Kaitaia, where he is from, and has surfed for about 20 years, but until Saturday had never had an encounter with a shark.

"Being a surfer, you read about these things happening but I never thought it would happen to me. I have surfed on my own before, but it was really nice having other people around," Mr Hobson said.

He said other guys he knew had surfed Snapper Point for 30 years and had never seen a shark there.

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Department of Conservation shark expert Clinton Duffy said today that the encounter with what sounded like a bronze whaler shark was unusual.

"I can't recall any similar incident with a bronze whaler and surfer in New Zealand. It's more typical of a bronze whaler being attracted to a spear fisherman, when they can become persistent and aggressive."

Mr Duffy said sharks responded to highly contrasting colours. Mr Hobson said his surfboard was brightly coloured.

"Contrasting colours, patterns and objects will stand out to a shark," Mr Duffy said.

He said it was unlikely a shark the size of that which attacked Mr Hobson could eat a person, but it had the potential to inflict a serious injury.

"It sounded determined but it was more than likely the shark viewed Mr Hobson as a threat, and went into a self-defence mode," Mr Duffy said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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