Matthew Smithers, who survived a shark attack off Muizenberg beach, is seen here recovering at the Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands. Picture: jason boud

Johannesburg - The young surfer who escaped with his life after being tossed 3m into the air by a great white shark off Muizenberg, Cape Town, on Friday says he has “no hard feelings against Mother Nature”.

Matthew Smithers, 20, suffered several deep cuts to his legs in the attack, which made headlines yesterday after one of the men who helped him to shore told of how “there was only the board between (Smithers) and the shark’s mouth”.

But on Saturday he was well enough to chat to the media, together with parents Jono and Julie, and brother Mitchell, from his bed in Vincent Pallotti Hospital.

The UCT construction studies student, who hails from Durban where he attended Westville Boys’ High, said he had been in the water for about half an hour when the shark struck just after 2pm.

“It was just another day surfing,” he said. “Not the best day, not the worst.”

He didn’t see it coming.

“It attacked me from underneath and behind. All I can remember is the impact – it was very sudden.”

The shark was big – “between 3 or 4m, I don’t know for sure”.

He said he went flying as the shark bit into his legs.

Then, as quickly, it released him, circled him once, then swam away.

During the long paddle back to shore, Smithers said he was “just hoping the shark wouldn’t come back and attack me a second time”.

Once on the shore, local surfers began treating him, fashioning a tourniquet from the leash on his board.

“I was trying to remain calm,” said Smithers. He didn’t feel like he was close to passing out, and could still feel his feet and move his toes. He learnt later from doctors that there had been no damage to the bone either.

He had been lucky.

“I was relaxed – more relaxed than you would expect,” he said.

His father Jono learnt of his son’s attack when Smithers called him in Durban. “Sho, it was a big shock,” he said yesterday.

“But the way he said it, it was like, ‘Hey Dad, guess what? You won’t believe what happened!’”

The tone of his son’s voice calmed him, he said at his son’s bedside, after flying into Cape Town on Friday night.

It was only when he later found out the shark was likely a Great White that the shock set in.

And as for heading back into the water? “Most definitely I’ll be back, as soon as I’m ready to go.”

Sunday Independent