Australian surfers says be stepped on a shark before it mauled him off east coast

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SYDNEY — A 20-year-old competition surfer said on Thursday he accidentally stepped on a shark's head before it bit him off the Australian east coast.

Ryan Hunt was recovering in Manning Hospital and awaiting surgery to deep cuts and puncture wounds to his left foot and ankle after he was mauled Wednesday evening while surfing at Wallabi Point, which is 250 kilometers (160 miles) north of Sydney.

Hunt told Nine Network television in a telephone interview from his hospital bed that he had jumped off his board in waist-deep water when he was bitten.

"I caught a wave in, got off, and then stood on a shark's head," Hunt said. "I thought it was a rock at first and then it latched on to my foot."

Hunt kicked the shark off with his right foot but it bit back again, he said. He kicked it a second time before it swam between his legs and away.

Hunt took himself to shore and a friend helped treat the wounds on the beach, before he was taken to hospital, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported. Hunt had recently returned from a surfing competition in Japan, the newspaper reported.

Hunt told Nine he did not know what type of shark it was in the murky water, but estimated its head was 25 centimeters (10 inches) wide.

Competitive junior surfer Kirra-Belle Olsson, 13, said a 1-meter (3.5-foot) shark bit her ankle and tried to drag her from her board two weeks ago as she surfed off Avoca Beach, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Sydney. Olsson expects to be fit to compete in a national title in December.

Two weeks earlier, surfer Sean Pollard, 23, had part of his arm torn off by a suspected 4-meter (13-foot) great white shark off the coast of Western Australia state near the town of Esperance.

Although sharks are common in Australian waters, the country has averaged fewer than two fatal attacks per year in recent decades.

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