HomeOutdoorsNewsSurfer Recounts Horrific Shark Attack, Extraordinary Recovery

Surfer Recounts Horrific Shark Attack, Extraordinary Recovery

by Caitlin Berard
Great White Shark, Possible Species Behind Attack
(Photo by Arturo de Frias photography via Getty Images)

When Brett Connellan suffered a brutal shark attack while surfing off the coast of Australia, doctors told him he would never walk again. Seven years later, he’s not only walking but hitting the waves again after successfully overcoming what will no doubt be the most harrowing experience of his life.

It was 2016 and Connellan was calmly paddling out to sea from the shores of Bombo Beach in New South Wales. An experienced surfer, he never dreamt that he was in any danger in the ocean. Until suddenly, a massive shark appeared from the depths, sinking its countless razor-edged teeth into his thigh.

“A lot of people ask me – did you see it coming? Could you see the fin coming through the water?” Connellan explained to Weekend Today, per 9 News. “I say, sharks are incredibly good at what they do. I didn’t see it coming.”

The shark attack lasted mere seconds. For Connellan, however, the moment stretched into what felt like a lifetime of agony. “For how quick the moment was, it was also so slow,” he said.

After years of countless questions and interview requests, Connellan is finally laying out the grisly story, moment by moment, in a documentary called Attacking Life. In the documentary, he also details his miraculous recovery and return to the sea in the wake of the living nightmare.

As his close friend Joel Trist carried the injured surfer back to shore on his own surfboard, Connellan thought about his dreams of becoming a pro surfer – dreams that were most certainly slipping through his fingers as the injury on his leg left a gruesome trail of red behind them.

Surfer Returns to the Sea Following Life-Altering Shark Attack

In a move that almost certainly saved Connellan’s life, Trist’s wife tied a tourniquet around his friend’s leg using the leash from his surfboard in an effort to quell the bleeding. They then waited anxiously for the arrival of first responders, the panic rising with each passing second.

“I’ve seen that color in a person before,” recalled Connellan’s father Malcolm, a retired deputy commissioner with Fire and Rescue NSW. “That’s not someone that survives this type of accident.”

But survive, Brett Connellan did. Sadly, there was nothing the medical staff could do to save the three-quarters of his quad taken in the shark attack. They did, however, save his life.

“There was a lot of luck on the beach and that extended to the recovery having the right people around me the whole way through,” Connellan said. “It’s a bit unknown when you lose three-quarters of your left quad and we didn’t know what the long-term effects would be.”

In the immediate aftermath, doctors warned the surfer that he would likely never walk again. Connellan, however, persevered once again, re-learning how to walk without the majority of his leg muscle. And once he was walking, his attention turned to surfing. Despite suffering a life-altering shark attack while on the sea, he simply couldn’t stay away.

“Surfing was a big part of my life,” he said. “I didn’t know what that end goal was going to look like and what that would mean for me. It’s not something that you can give up. It’s not too much about chasing the dream of becoming a professional surfer, I do it more because I love it now.”