Surfer sees woman ‘get launched into the air’ off surfboard by great white shark

Two surfers were left paddling for their lives after a great white shark knocked one of them off their surfboard Monday evening at North Point beach in Western Australia.

Tom Van Beem, an off-duty lifeguard, was surfing alongside a Belgium woman when the close encounter occurred near Gracetown around 6 p.m. They were the last remaining surfers in the water at the time.

Van Beem told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that he had felt water movement underneath him.

"Then out of nowhere I saw the girl get launched into the air, followed [by] a huge pair of fins and the whole side of this great white," Van Beem recalled to Slab Magazine. "I was only a few meters away."

Van Beem estimated that the great white shark was nearly 13-feet long.

"I'm a lifeguard, and I have some training for shark situations, so the first thing I did was ask if she was OK; I knew that if the shark had hit one of her major arteries, she would have only had a minute or so before she’d pass out from blood loss," Van Beem told Stab Magazine. "Once she said she was OK, we paddled 50 meters straight to the rocks, floated over the barnacles, and scurried up as fast as possible."

Clearly there were some tense moments as the two paddled toward shore.

"I had this sinking feeling that I could get hit at any moment, but luckily it didn't come back for us," Van Beem said.

Officials closed the beaches where the close encounter until Thursday morning. Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Once they made it to shore, they noticed gauges in the bottom of the woman’s surfboard left by the shark's teeth.

The woman, meanwhile, was in tears. The Australian identified her as Catherine Vissers, who came to Margaret River to study cooking. Van Beem believes she was in shock. He admitted they were both pretty shaken up.

"Very, very lucky that no one was injured and everyone’s fine, just a few minor dings on her board," Van Beem told 9 News.

"If it wanted to, it could’ve taken a big limb or something like that."

The shark encounter prompted officials to issue a shark warning.

"To reduce the threat to people, North Point to Lefhanders surfing spot has now been closed," the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said in a statement, according to ABC. The beaches will remain closed until at least Thursday morning.

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