John Clemmett was bitten on the foot by a small shark at Wategos Beach, Byron Bay, but says it was less painful than the root canal he had to undergo later on.
John Clemmett was bitten on the foot by a small shark at Wategos Beach, Byron Bay, but says it was less painful than the root canal he had to undergo later on. Patrick Gorbunovs

Bitten on the foot by a shark in knee-deep water at Wategos

A BYRON Bay man who was bitten on the foot by a shark at Wategos Beach on Wednesday morning says the attack won't deter him from getting back in the water.

John Clemmett said he had surfed, kayaked and swum at the famous beach since the 1972, and decided to go for a 6.10am dip, before having to endure root canal therapy that afternoon.

"I think the pain of the root canal was worse than the shark bite, especially after the anesthetic wore off," he said.

Mr Clemmett said he walked into the water after discussing sharks with a group of surfers, close to where he spotted a four metre great white shark 50 metres from shore, while kayaking a fortnight ago.

It was my own stupid fault for going out there at that time of the day in such turbulent water, to be honest

"I was stepping forward in water just above my knees and suddenly I was bitten on the right foot," he said.

"I fell flat on my back and the shark started twisting, turning and thrashing.

"Then I think it realised my bony old foot was not the best thing to try and eat, so it let go and swam away."

In the low light, Mr Clemmett, 65, didn't get a good look at the shark, which he estimated to be less than a metre long.

"I just saw a flash of colour but from the size of the bite on my foot it was only a small one."

After walking back to shore, Mr Clemmett said he bled the bite out before bathing it in a basin of water and antiseptic.

"My foot blew up like a balloon almost immediately, but it wasn't that painful, there was just a bit of throbbing," he said.

"It was my own stupid fault for going out there at that time of the day in such turbulent water, to be honest."

Despite seeing an average of 10 sharks a year at Wategos Beach, Mr Clemmett said the daily drive to and from the beach posed far more risk than a shark attack.

"For the hours and hours I have spent out in that water I don't consider it a risk at all."

Surf Life Saving Far North Coast duty officer Jimmy Keogh said shark numbers increased off the North Coast when whales and their new calves migrated south.


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