Great white shark tosses paddler airborne while taking huge bite out of surf ski

Three friends were paddling from one beach to another in the South African town of Plettenberg Bay west of Port Elizabeth on Monday morning when one of the paddlers was attacked by a great white shark, according to News24 and Herald Live.

The three paddlers were in surf skis, which are long, narrow, lightweight kayaks with sit-on-the-top cockpits. The vacationing friends were paddling from Central Beach to Keurbooms Lagoon and were a quarter mile offshore when just after 7 "all hell broke loose," according to the victim, Ben Swart, 55.

"I was paddling and the next minute I heard this crashing noise and simultaneously … I saw splinters flying," Swart told Cape Talk. "I got hit from behind, from the bottom, about a half a meter behind the seat of the surf ski. Even before I landed in the water I knew it was a great white attack."

Asked how he knew, Swart replied, "By the shear force of the whole thing. I also know that's the way they attack, from the bottom. You always see video footage of seals going right into the air. So I knew when I landed it was a great white.

"Then the crucial time was after that when the shark had to make up its mind what to do next."

Swart decided not to try to swim away for fear it would excite the shark. Instead he found refuge on the still-buoyant surf ski. He asked his friends to come close by.

RELATED: Fisherman uses broom to fight off great white shark; video

The National Sea Rescue Institute was called in to assist the three paddlers. When a crew arrived on the scene, it saw the three surf skis "rafted together with the three paddlers paddling gently towards the shoreline."

All three were loaded into an NSRI boat. The crew then discovered the surf ski with considerable damage.

The great white shark had taken a huge bite out of the surf ski. Based on the bite mark and the fact Swart saw the shark after the attack, the shark was estimated to be at least 13-feet long. Measurements and photographs were sent to research authorities to determine the size and species of shark, The Citizen reported, though it appears obvious.

"The NSRI are urging the public, paddlers and bathers to be cautious," NSRI station commander Marc Rodgers told The Citizen. "NSRI coast watchers monitoring the coastline have noted shark sightings along the Plettenberg coastline following this incident today and caution is advised."