GRAPHIC CONTENT: Jebez Reitman was attacked by a shark in Byron Bay, leaving a gouge that exposed his rib cage. Then he drove himself 8km to hospital where he received 69 stitches.
Jebez Reitman, 36, and his wife Katherine live in Byron Bay, on the NSW North Coast, with their two-year-old daughter Marley. Jebez grew up surfing - he got his first board at age four - and knows the ocean well. On February 8, 2015, he had a bloody encounter with one of the locals - a shark. This is his story.
Last September in the Bay, there was a fatal shark attack - a great white grabbed a man swimming in chest-deep water. My wife freaked out and started to research anti-shark devices, that resulted in her buying me a Sharkbanz. The best gift I had ever received!
On February 8 this year, I went for a surf with a friend from work. Just before we jumped in the water I realised I hadn't put on my Sharkbanz - I had left it at home on the kitchen table - and thought to myself, "I will be fine." Then we paddled out the back to about 50m from shore, where we were greeted by the biggest pod of dolphins I had ever seen, swimming in all directions, jumping and splashing about - not realising we were in the middle of a bait ball feeding frenzy.
We both sat up on our boards, and I reassured my friend: "Don't freak out, they are just dolphins, there's no sharks," At that moment I saw a set approaching, went to lay down on my board when there was this massive "splash" to the right of me. In a split second I turned to see the commotion only to be hit in the face. My reaction was to turn my face away. Then I felt the weight, what I thought was a dolphin landing on top of me, pushing me below the surface.
While I was rising to the surface I felt a hollow, winded sting. I reached my left arm around my back and that's when I felt torn flesh and my exposed rib cage. That was the moment everything slowed down and I had no doubt I had just been chewed on by a shark.
I climbed on my board and started to paddled only to realise my surfboard was upside down - I had to get back in the water and flip it over. That was the most frightening at the time. Then I paddled to shore as fast as I could yelling at my friend, "F***ing paddle! Shark!" I kept looking over my shoulder at the blood trail, with my friend paddling in it, just expecting a "wack" by the shark, but we both made it to shore.
We walked 200m back to our towels, where I wrapped mine around me to help stem the bleeding, then back to the car we walked, only to alert another surfer who had just entered the water of the situation. We got to the car and I handed my friend the keys only to hear: "I don't have a license." So I drove us both to the Byron Bay hospital - about 8km away.
When I was stable I called my wife to let her know what happened and that I was ok. Then I called work to let them know I wasn't going to be coming in anytime soon.
I understand that anyone who enters the water is taking a risk - it's their home, it's a marine park in this area, and we all need to be taught awareness of dangers like bait balls, tidal river mouths, diving birds, feeding dolphins, to use your "gut instinct" and to wear Sharkbanz for a piece of mind. While shark culls are not the answer, we all want more technology available and independent testing done, and the government to be more involved so the public can have more reassurance. The ocean is massive and there are some really big angry fish out there.
Eight months since my attack I'm still seeing a psychiatrist to help me with my demons. I would be lying if I said I don't think about a shark coming up and saying "hello" again.
See Jebez in Shark! on Insight on SBS tonight at 8.30pm.