Shark attack victim reveals the terrifying moment predator ‘looked him in the eye’ before tearing a chunk of flesh from his leg – and relives his miraculous tale of survival: ‘My worst nightmare’

  • Brett Connellan was attacked by a shark in 2016 
  • He was surfing at Bombo Beach in Kiama, NSW 
  • He shares recovery journey in ‘Attacking Life’ documentary 

A surfer has revealed how a shark looked him straight in the eye before chomping three-quarters of his thigh off in a vicious attack – and recalled how he miraculously survived. 

in March, 2016, Brett Connellan was 100metres off shore at Bombo Beach in the tourist town of Kiama on the NSW south coast when he was mauled by a bull shark.

Then 22, Mr Connellan said he did not see the shark coming and it wasn’t until after he was thrown from his board and he looked down that he saw the predator biting his leg. 

‘That initial moment when you look down and realise what’s actually going on, for a surfer that’s your worst nightmare,’ Mr Connellan said. 

Seven years later, Mr Connellan shared his story in a Stan documentary called Attacking Life that chronicles his road to recovery and the long-term effects of his nightmare encounter. 

Stan documentary ‘Attacking Life’ recounts Brett Connellan’s (pictured) incredible story of surviving a shark attack and his remarkable road to recovery  

Mr Connellan was a surfing at Bombo Beach, on NSW’s south coast town of Kiama, on March 30, 2016 when a bull shark bit off three-quarters of his left thigh (pictured)

Mr Connellan said the moment in the water felt incredibly slow despite the attack happening so quickly.

He felt like it was an out-of-body experience in which he was looking at himself trapped in a bubble. 

He recalls the shark’s gaze, the feel of its skin and the complete lack of sound he experienced during the ordeal.

‘The look in the shark’s eyes, in the moment it’s one of the most terrifying things you can look at because it’s not something you can reason with,’ Mr Connellan said. 

‘It’s this realisation that my worst nightmare is coming to fruition right in front of me and I can’t do anything about it.

‘The most vivid thing I can remember is the touch and feel of the shark’s skin as I’m trying to push it away or hold it at arm’s length. It was kind of really rough, which was a strange sensation to remember. 

‘One of the other things that sticks out to me was the lack of sound. It was like someone completely turned the sound off, there was not even the ringing sound in the background, it was just dead silence. 

‘It’s like your world shrinks into this small bubble and you’re almost looking at it from the outside.’

Mr Connellan said as the shark returned to bite him a second time, he put his hands out to try and stop it. 

The shark propelled him through the water with ‘so much power’ and in a last ditch effort for survival, Mr Connellan pushed the shark to one side and caught a wave into shore. 

Surgeons feared he would never walk again but through innovative medical care, including surgery which attached his lateral muscle from his back to his left quadriceps, Mr Connellan (pictured) was able to walk and surf again  

Mr Connellan told Daily Mail Australia he was thrilled the documentary, which premiered on March 9, is not a ‘Jaws-esque’ tale. 

‘But when you offer your story to someone else to tell – you lose control over the things that mean the most,’ he said. 

‘It could have been a remake of Jaws and I didn’t want that. It was important for me to do it under circumstances where I could really include my perspective.

‘Because being bitten by that shark … it took part of my leg but it gave me so much more.’

The documentary recounts how Mr Connellan’s life was first saved by his friend Joel Trist, who heard his screams for help and brought him to shore on his surfboard. 

Mr Trist’s now-wife Agie, who was training to be a nurse at the time, performed first aid on the shore by using Mr Connellan’s surfboard leg rope as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. 

Surgeons feared Mr Connellan would never walk again and told the young man there was a possibility his leg might have to be amputated. 

However, with innovative medical care, including surgery which attached his lateral muscle from his back to his left quadriceps, the surfer was able to walk and eventually get back on his board. 

‘I was told that I would not be able to walk again and definitely wouldn’t be able to surf again,’ Connellan said. 

‘I remember thinking I want to prove the doctors wrong and show them that I can walk again and I ended up going so much further than that.’

The documentary follows Mr Connellan as he attacked the physical and mental aspects of rehabilitation but also the ambitious goal of paddling 54km between Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Oahu. 

Mr Connellan told Daily Mail Australia the documentary is not a ‘Jaws-esque’ recount of the attack but rather his road to recovery (pictured, Mr Connellan learning to walk again) 

Mr Connellan (pictured) successfully crossed Hawaii’s Molokai Channel – an ambitious goal he set for himself during his rehabilitation 

Mr Connellan said he does not want to be defined as the guy who got attacked by a shark but wants people to see the attack as a hook for a greater message. 

‘I’m just an ordinary person, who had something quite extraordinary happen to them,’ Mr Connellan said.  

‘We are all going to have our version of a shark attack. There are going to be things that challenge us. They might challenge our personal identity, they might just challenge our physical or mental strength. 

‘I would like a lot of people to not necessarily look at the shark attack but look at what I’ve been through, my journey of recovery, and use it as inspiration.’  

The 29-year-old, who dreamed of becoming a professional surfer, now works as a keynote speaker and starts all his presentations by talking about fear. 

‘I always ask ‘what’s your biggest fear?’ and the two most common ones I get is either public speaking or being attacked by an animal,’ Mr Connellan said.

‘One of them I do by choice, the other one happened by chance and I guess the relationship between the two fears is something that has shaped my life.

‘Getting up on stage is something that terrifies me but knowing that my story and my experience can make an impact outweighs my fear.’

The 29-year-old (pictured) dreamed of becoming a professional surfer but now works as a keynote speaker. He hopes people use his story as inspiration to help them through their own challenges

He explained it’s not always 100 per cent easy getting back into the water but said acknowledging and understanding sharks, as well as his desire to recapture the euphoric bliss he experiences when surfing, helps. 

‘For me, the harder thing about going back in the water was an unknown of what I was going to surf like,’ he said. 

‘It’s not something that you can give up. It’s not so much about chasing the dream of becoming a professional surfer, I do it more because I love it now.’ 

Mr Connellan has set his sights on another endurance challenge – Red Bull’s ‘Defiance’ event, which includes 150km of running, mountain biking and kayaking through north Queensland.

Attacking Life is available now on Stan. 

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