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Sussex surfer survives shark attack by punching great white in the face
5:00am Monday 10th February 2014 in News
A former Sussex man fought off a great white shark by punching it in the face as it mauled him out at sea.
Darren Mills was waiting to catch a wave while surfing in New Zealand when the 10ft beast sunk its teeth into his leg.
With just seconds to save himself from being dragged under, the 28-year-old, originally from Crawley, aimed a jab at the shark before swimming to safety.
Speaking from his hospital bed to New Zealand's One News, he told how he felt a “big thump” before turning to see the shark “clamp down” on his leg.
He said: "I just feel really, really lucky. Really lucky".
The budding surfer was out with friends in Propoise Bay in the country's South Island on Friday.
He said: “I was paddling back across the back of the surf and felt a big thump from the shore side.
“I looked round and saw the shark clamp down.
“It pushed me out and around a wee bit . I sort or realised what was going on and could see it and tried to punch it.”
His friends caught the next wave to the beach but Darren was left stranded and bleeding heavily, 50 yards out.
Fighting back the tears, he recounted: “I was pretty scared it was going to come back. It was just really scary.”
Finally dragging himself to safety, his partner and friends rushed to his aid and the air ambulance was called.
Local surf school owner, Nick Smart, who was just 100 yards from the attack, told how he Mr Mills was bleeding heavily and “not saying much”.
“He was in a lot of pain,” he said.
“We rushed to give him blankets and there was a doctor holidaying on the beach who also helped.
“I could see a cut in his wetsuit. It looked to be a 10cm gash in one leg.
“I've surfed the bay thousands of times and done thousands of instructions and thought it was as safe as a church.”
The air ambulance flew Mr Mills to Invergargill's Southland Hospital where he was treated for a deep gash, which had gone through a tendon.
He also had four further cuts to the top of his leg.
In an ironic twist, just days earlier Mr Mills took a ride in a submersible shark simulator for a tourism promotion.
He added: “It was pretty crazy.
“When it first happened I said I'm not even getting in the bath tub again.”
Mr Mills, who moved Queenstown from Sussex, took to Facebook yesterday to thank those who saved his life.
He said: “Just want to say thanks to everyone for your support and especially some people I didn't know at the beach, my friends and amazing girlfriend who were all there to help me through Friday evening. It was the scariest day of my life, thank you so much x.”
His friends from both home and abroad also took to social media to wish him well.
Alex Bowell, said: “What a hero mate. See you in a few weeks to feed you grapes and carry you through town as the boy who beat up a great white.”