By MEL MARTIN
ROSS Burton never thought he could walk on water, but that's exactly what he felt he did when a bronze whaler shark took more than just a whiff of his foot on Monday.
Ross, of Coffs Harbour, had just picked up a wave while out on his regular early morning surf at Macauleys Beach when his board came to a sudden stop.
"I thought I'd run into another surfer or a swimmer," Ross, a father of two young children, said.
But then he felt the pain.
"I started struggling, and it kept hanging on. I was just screaming, you have no idea what it felt like. It's the scariest thing that's ever happened to me," Ross said.
"Bronze whalers often travel together, so I figured there must be more close by and with all the blood in the water, I was terrified.
"I was just trying to get away from it."
His struggling eventually succeeded in getting the shark to let go, and Ross reckons he's never made it to shore quicker, all the while expecting the shark to grab him again.
Once back on solid ground, two friends who were also surfing bandaged Ross and drove him to hospital for treatment of seven puncture wounds on his heel.
Ross has seen plenty of sharks in his time, and he has no doubt the shark was a bronze whaler, albeit a juvenile one.
"I've seen a lot of sharks and I got a good look at this one," he said.
"It was a couple of metres in length, and definitely a bronze whaler.
"Normally, a shark this size, you wouldn't get out of the water for, because you'd figure it wouldn't kill you, it would just give you a love bite. I tell you what, love bites are highly overrated."
And while Ross is the forgiving type, not believing the shark meant him harm, he does want to warn Coffs Coast residents to keep an eye out when swimming.
"I don't think it was out to eat someone, I think it just grabbed me by the ankle because it was annoyed I'd hit it," he said.
"I just want people to know there is salmon out there, so be aware the sharks come with them.
"Look after your kids, because it wasn't in deep water ? under waist height and about 50 metres from the shore ? so it's conceivable a kid could have got out that far.
"If it had grabbed a toddler it could have killed them."
And as soon as his wounds heal, Ross will be right back out there surfing.
"I figure I'm right to go surfing anytime now, I've had my shark attack!"