Shark struck without warning: survivor Paul Goff describes the moment he escaped death.

Gabrielle Knowles and Claire TyrrellThe West Australian
VideoPaul Goff survived an attack by a great white shark. These pictures show him being pulled ashore after the attack. Warning: strong language.

The shark struck without warning as Paul Goff waited for a wave off a Bunbury beach on Sunday morning.

It rammed the bodyboard underneath his chest with enough force to propel him into the air.

As the father-of-three saw the predator launch out of the water between him and his board, he quickly realised it was not one of the dolphins he had seen swimming past minutes earlier.

“I saw the grey and the white of the gills and at that point I realised it wasn’t a dolphin,” Mr Goff recalled.

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“It hit fairly hard, but didn’t wind me. “Then it went towards the board.

Mr Goff describes the attack.
Camera IconMr Goff describes the attack. Credit: The West Australian

“I yelled ‘shark, shark’, pulled the leash off my wrist to let go of my body-board, turned and started paddling towards the beach.”

The 48-year-old was relatively matter-of-fact yesterday as he recounted the terrifying incident just hours after he safely reached shore.

But he admitted that during the unknown minutes it took to swim the 80-odd metres to the beach he had no idea whether he would make it alive and counts himself lucky.

Bunbury bodyboarder Paul Goff recovers at home with wife Rose and children Jordan, left, Jess and Travis.
Camera IconBunbury bodyboarder Paul Goff recovers at home with wife Rose and children Jordan, left, Jess and Travis. Credit: Pictures: Nic Ellis

“I didn’t know how far the shark was behind me, whether it was coming up behind me or had stayed out,” Mr Goff said. “To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what was going to happen.”

He did not look back at all, just concentrated on swimming as fast as he could.

As he reached within 30m of the shore, two of the other bodyboarders who had been in the water with him walked back into the shallows and their yells to “swim, swim, swim” had him fearing the worst.

Wearing fins, he could not stand and they dragged him the final metres out of the water.

He said when he finally composed himself a few minutes later to look out to sea, he realised the predator had not chased him but was toying with his board.

The black and white bodyboard was now more than 100m out and Mr Goff sat watching for several minutes as the shark circled and nudged it.

Mr Goff is unsure just how big the predator was.

But witnesses believe it was a 3.5m to 4m great white and Fisheries officers have now taken the board, which was later recovered by volunteer marine rescuers, to see if the bite marks in it will reveal exactly what attacked him.

When Mr Goff and two others had arrived at Casuarina Point, the spot known locally as BP, just before 8am, there was just one surfer in the water.

The bodyboard.
Camera IconThe bodyboard. Credit: WA Police

One of his mates commented that the lone surfer would be dismayed at having company.

But Mr Goff replied that he should be pleased, saying if there was a shark attack the man’s chances of being the victim had reduced from 100 to 25 per cent.

That joke would come back to haunt him less than an hour later.

A man in a look-out tower reportedly saw swirling and thrashing in the water just before the shark struck.

But Mr Goff said neither he nor the other surfers in the water with him saw anything in the clear 2m-deep water in the moments beforehand.

“I had no warning at all that it was there,” he said. “The camouflage colour of the shark — that’s what it’s there for, it protects them. I didn’t see it coming.”

Mr Goff admits to being surprised — and very lucky that the predator chose to attack the board rather than the noisy, moving target he was.

He said he did not think the incident would keep him out of the water and did not think the shark should be killed since it had not hurt him.

“I probably got the best result I could have,” he said. “People say I should have bought a lotto ticket, maybe, maybe not.”

VideoThis dramatic footage shows him being dragged from the water.

Bunbury bodyboarder Taymus Farnworth, 15, was with his friends at a nearby surf break when a man ran frenetically down the coast warning them about a shark.

“He was making hand signals, putting his hand on top of his head like a fin, saying ‘there’s a shark’,” Taymus said.

Fellow bodyboarder Seth Versaci, 15, said in his four years in the sport he had never spotted a shark in Bunbury.

“I have been called out of the water multiple times around Smiths Beach (Margaret River) but it is unheard of here,” he said.

Taymus and his friends, who were about 500 metres from the attack, agreed the ocean was a shark’s domain and risking shark encounters was part of the sport.

Back Beach Cafe worker Renee Pitt saw the shark swimming close to shore just after 9am.

“I heard the shark alarm, looked outside and just as the surfers were coming back in I saw a shark fin about 50 metres offshore,” she said.

“Nothing like this has ever been seen here before. One of the baristas who works here said in his 52 years he had never heard of the beach being closed.”

Bunbury Sea Rescue commander Albert Fullarton said he got a call from police to locate the missing board yesterday morning.

“We found the board about 500 metres out to sea and it had bites in it,” he said.

The Sea Rescue crew alerted some kayakers paddling nearby about the shark, prompting them out of the water.

He had been in his job for more than 12 years and this was the first time he had seen a shark so close to shore.

VideoProfessional filmmaker produces video he hopes will save lives. Video: Courtesy Terra Australis

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