Local surfer takes the points in fight
By Ash’lee Charlton
A GLEN Alvie surfer has fought off a shark near Wonthaggi by punching it in the face, before it knocked him off his board last Thursday evening.
Matt Hull has been hitting the local waves for more than 30 years without incident, but last week the keen surfer had his very own Mick Fanning experience, coming face-to-face with a shark.
The drama began to unfold when Matt and his mate Grant Curtin headed to popular local surfing spot, ‘The Powlett’, an area just back from the mouth of the Powlett River.
“Grant had seen it a bit earlier on and said ‘Hully’, there’s a shark,’” Matt said.
“It came up beside him and then left. It didn’t look that big so we thought ‘we’ll be right’.”
Around half-an-hour later the two men were “sitting out the back” of the waves when the shark returned.
“The shark has just risen up in front of my board out of nowhere,” Matt said.
“I moved right down to the end of my board and was able to get a really good look at it – I would say it was about six to eight foot long and about as wide as my board.”
With the shark continuing to rise up in front of him, Matt attempted to use his board to protect himself.
“I gave it a real good whack with the front of my board,” he said.
While the shark returned underneath the water, it soon reappeared on his right side.
“It started to rise up out of the water again, so I just punched it right in the face,” he said.
It was at this moment that the shark’s tail swung around and hit Matt on the leg, knocking him from his board and into the water.
“I wasn’t sure what had happened, but Grant, who had stayed out in the water with me said when I punched it, the shark has gone to swim off and the tail has hit me,” Matt said.
After the initial shock both men jumped back of their surfboards.
“I think the adrenalin kicked in and we were yelling ‘Mick Fanning, Mick Fanning!’” Matt joked.
“Then I thought s***, we had better get out of here.”
Once back on the safety of the shore, the men continued to be amazed at what had just occurred.
“I actually was able to catch a wave in, but I didn’t want to leave Grant back there behind me,” Matt said.
“When we were back up on the beach we were yelling and saying how unreal it was. It was pretty full on.”
Despite coming face-to-face with the shark, Matt says he didn’t fear for his life.
“To see it rise up right in front of me, it definitely scared the crap out of me,” he said.
“I didn’t think I was going to die or anything, but it certainly gave me a scare.””
Matt is unable to say what breed of shark it was, but thinks it may have just been curious.
“It wasn’t a great white or anything, it was a dirty colour,” he said.
“I would say it is a bottom dweller that would probably have a crack at a seal or something like that.”
Once home, the reality of the incident really started to hit and Matt said his emotions were “up and down throughout the evening”.
“My kids just wanted to cuddle me and I kept waking up through the night thinking about it. My wife and kids were awesome though,” he said.
Matt also has high praise for his mate Grant who remained out in the water with him.
“I take my hat off to Grant. He is the sort of mate you’d want to have around when something like that happens,” he said.
“He just stayed out there with me and was great.”
Despite being a long-time surfer, Matt says it is the first time that he has encountered a shark.
And after growing up in Cape Paterson and spending more than three decades in the local waters, it wasn’t long until Matt was facing his fears and heading back out on his board.
“I went surfing on Saturday and Sunday, in a different spot though,” he said.
“I just thought I have to get back out there and try and calm the nerves and if I don’t enjoy it then I would have been done.
“But it was all OK.”