Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sydney shark victim's brave return to Bondi beach, by David Barrett - Herald Sun - 13th May 2009

Just three months ago, Able Seaman Paul de Gelder lay in hospital fighting for his life.

His right hand had been torn off by a bull shark, and within days surgeons amputated his lower right leg.

He'd stared "eye-to-eye" with the monster shark, and cheated death.

Paddling through the waves at Sydney's North Bondi beach Tuesday, Mr de Gelder, 32, was a man determined to recover and live his life.

A keen surfer, he hit the waves with two mates for the first time since the shark attack in Sydney Harbour on February 11.

Emerging from the surf, he told the Herald Sun he felt good being back in the water.

"Mate, I've been falling off my surfboard," he said. "It was my first time back out there."

Mr de Gelder spent about 15 minutes lying on his board, swimming and catching waves. On the beach he did some push-ups and stood gazing out at the water.

"Surfing was a big part of my life before the attack," he said. "So I really wanted to get back out there again.

"I'm a beach boy now."

Mr de Gelder served in East Timor as a peacekeeper and spent four years as an army paratrooper.

He was mauled while testing the navy's counter-terrorism equipment off the RAN base at Garden Island.

In a TV interview on Sunday, Mr de Gelder said he stared "eye-to-eye" with the shark that attacked him.

"You don't even feel the teeth go in. I think the adrenaline, the panic, probably puts a numb on the pain and you don't feel it," he said.

Mr de Gelder said he was very happy to be back in the water: "It's . . . where I feel most comfortable of all, even with these big sharks around."

Mr de Gelder hopes to one day return to work as a navy clearance diver.

"It's gonna be a tough bridge to cross but you can't show weakness," he said.

"Not in my job."

Asked if he was planning more surfing, he said: "I'll be back for sure." (Credit: Herald Sun)

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