AN Australian man was lucky to be alive today after a shark rammed his surfboard and bit off a huge chunk.
The impact threw Stephen King, 51, into the air but he managed to make it to shore with only minor puncture wounds to his leg.
Mr King believes he was targeted by a whaler shark as he was about to catch a wave near Yamba on the New South Wales far north coast at dawn on Monday.
"Just as I was taking off, jumping up, there was this bang from the side and I was cartwheeling through the air and it was just thrashing beside me," he told Australia's Channel Nine News.
"I'm probably the luckiest guy on two legs at the moment. Unbelievable."
NSW Department of Primary Industries spokesman Vic Peddemors said attacks were more common at the start of summer.
"We've got to be realistic. This is their territory and we're just the visitors," he said.
Sharks are a common feature of Australian waters but fatal attacks are rare, with only 24 recorded deaths in the 20 years up to June 2009.
However, there have been at least three deaths from shark attacks in Western Australia in the past three months.