•Teenager keen to return to water despite needing 300 stitches to right leg, shin, thigh
YOUNG surfer Dylan Puttergill, 14, is surprisingly upbeat and eager to surf again after being bitten by a shark at The Haven in Transkei on June 16.
The Merrifield College Grade 9 pupil jumped into the ocean with his dad, Phillip, shortly after arriving at their beach house overlooking the ocean for the long weekend. After an hour of surfing, his dad headed back, and that was when Dylan encountered the shark.
“I was sitting on my board in 2.5m deep water with my legs in the water. I felt an explosion below me that bolted me back and as I was launching out of the water it grabbed my leg,” Dylan said.
Judging by its colour and size he guesses it was a Zambezi shark. Its teeth sunk into his right leg, piercing the skin on his shin and thigh.
“I immediately grabbed my leash and pulled myself back up on the board and slowly paddled in. I kept looking back to see if I could spot the shark and turning around to feel my leg. I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to walk on it,” he said.
Once he managed to get to the family beach house, his father called his friend Kevin Schroeder, who happened to be about to take a trip on his helicopter from East London, and arranged an airlift to St Dominic’s hospital.
Two hours after the incident, he arrived at the hospital where he was patched up with about 300 stitches under general anaesthetic.
Phillip said Dylan was the most calm of the family on the trip home. “My wife was full of panic and I was nervous about the blood loss, but happy when I could see that he could move his toes. I am so glad I got hold of Kevin [Schroeder] and it all worked out,” Phillip said.
“I have been surfing at the Haven for 35 years and never encountered a shark, though there have been attacks further up at Ntlonyana otherwise known as Breezy Point.
“The possibility doesn’t cross your mind often and I even said that day felt nice and safe because the water was clear,”Phillip said.
Despite seeing his life flash before his eyes, Dylan is confident to head back into the waves as soon as he is fully recovered.
The family head out to Australia on a “surfing holiday” today for three weeks and Dylan aims to get on his board during the final week.
“We were lucky about the point of impact on the shin and it seemed like more of a test bite. Perhaps it tasted the neoprene of his wet suit and was put off,” Phillip said.
“I am traumatised by the ‘what if?’ I realise we are not geared for these things and we need to have a plan for when it happens,” he said.