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South Africa Surfer Attacked By Great White Shark Hours Before 'Jaws' Broadcast; 'Lucky To Be Alive'

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EAST LONDON, South Africa -- A South Africa surfer was recovering in hospital yesterday after being attacked by a monster shark – just hours before the movie Jaws was being rebroadcast on national TV.

The shark, believed to be a Great White, shattered Lee Mellin’s surf board and left a 15-inch wound down his thigh in the attack at Bonza Bay.

“The doctor said I’m the luckiest shark attack victim he has ever seen and I definitely agree,” said Mellin, 37, pointing at his bandaged left thigh yesterday.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Mellin said it was his “survivor’s instinct” that saved his life.

He remained conscious throughout the attack and yesterday gave a vivid account of his encounter with the Great White – even though it all happened “within a split second”.

Mellin and his friend, Leigh Stolworthy, were riding the waves at about 8:45am on Saturday when they saw this “big fish” close by.

“There was nothing we could do,” he said. “It just popped up between us.”

Although in pain and still counting his “lucky stars”, Mellin managed to joke and laugh about the attack:

“There was this massive white shark bursting out of the water, real Jaws-like …

“It obviously gave one look at Leigh thinking he didn’t have enough meat, so he went at me.

“It was a flippin’ big thing.

“ I was still on my board and it came for me.

“I just felt its jaws sinking in ...

“I think the shark’s teeth got stuck in the surfboard. It then took another bite, but by then I let go of my board.

“It just bit the board again.”

Mellin, son of retired newspaper photographer Rob Mellin, said he started to panic and remembered screaming and shouting at Stolworthy: “Help me!”

“It all happened in … seconds.

“Afterwards we got onto our boards and paddled back.

“I was worried it would come back and strike again, but Leigh kept assuring me that it was nowhere in sight.”

They rushed to the hospital where Mellin was taken into the operating room for stitches.

Mellin, who has been surfing most of his life, said it was simply a case of being at the “wrong place at the wrong time”.

Stolworthy said he was also “lucky to be alive”.

“It was really close,” he recalled. “I was looking at it all the time and thinking: This can’t be for real!”

Mellin’s surfboard was bitten in two and teeth marks left on the two parts were evidence of the size of the shark.

The two surfers think the shark was about 10 feet long, and Mellin reckoned the dorsal fin was about 16 inches tall.

Buffalo City marine services chief Siani Tinley said it was likely the shark was a Great White but tests on the teeth marks on the surfboard and Mellin’s wound would confirm the species.

Tinley added that the clean and cold seawater was conducive to Great White feeding conditions.

Bonza Bay, Nahoon and Gonubie beach were closed with shark warnings on Saturday, but re-opened after 8am yesterday.

Both Mellin and Stolworthy told of seeing sharks before but they had never had a close encounter.

However, they agreed they will soon be back in the water – surfing, of course.

The Steven Spielberg movie Jaws is about a US resort being forced to close its beaches after a Great White attacks bathers.


Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

40 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

Hope he heals up well, but it's still frustrating to see these articles demonizing sharks. A large pitbull is not a "monster", why is a Great White?
   comment# 1   - Joe · Plantation, FL · Nov 6, 2007 @ 11:37am

What a story! Lucky is right. A large pit bull that bites someone is a menace. I believe they are using "monster" as a description of it's size not demonizing the fish. I think the story is to the point and more about this mans lucky and unlikely survival and isn't bias one way or the other.
   comment# 2   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska ,Texas · Nov 6, 2007 @ 8:03pm

Although the water was clear, 8:45am is definitely feeding time. Try surfing when the sun is high.
   comment# 3   - Phillip Mahn · Hot Springs, USA · Nov 11, 2007 @ 4:22am

Hello gobal friends, don't tell its a story and biased situation, when I read I really Hats of my friend Lee Mellin, who went back to south Africa for his Surfing hobby. I am really glad to God he is Luckiest Man in the world to survive with such encounter attack. People only can since who gone through such things. All the best for ur hobby.
   comment# 4   - Rama.Rao · London, Uk · Nov 15, 2007 @ 6:43am

Get well soon Lee and wish you good luck for future surfing
   comment# 5   - RAMA.Rao · London, UK · Nov 15, 2007 @ 7:08am

I used to work with Lee. Nice Guy and i hope he makes a full recovery. What a story
   comment# 6   - Inderpaul Plaha · London, England · Nov 15, 2007 @ 8:20am

Lee as long as I worked with you in London, you never did anything by haves. Get well & back on that board, he was only playing with you. People say riding motor bikes is dangerous. Stay well, enjoy. Neil 'H'
   comment# 7   - Neil A Heywood · London · Nov 16, 2007 @ 2:28am

At least you'll have an incredible story behind the scars! Get well soon, Eric
   comment# 8   - Eric Sexton · Dublin · Dec 11, 2007 @ 8:45am

I feel so bad for you. I would probably be dead if I were in that situation. I would be crying so hard. I am only 12 years old and I would hate that so much. I went to Mexico and went in the ocean and was afraid sharks were going to come and get me. My uncle said it was alright. I didn't believe him thought. Anyway, I hope you are getting better. :)!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   comment# 9   - Erin · IA, Rock Valley · Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:43am

   comment# 10   - SHELBIE LEBEAU · JOPPATOWN MD USA · Jan 9, 2008 @ 2:38am

omg what a story fair play to you i love sharks to bits but i wud never go swimming in a country that i know has sharks i would be terrified any way this isn't about me..i have to say you are a very brave man and i really hope your doing well all the best in surfing!! roisin xx
   comment# 11   - roisin · dublin ireland · Mar 20, 2008 @ 9:22am

you are so lucky to be alive i think you are a very brave man; I could imagine the pain you were going through my hat goes off to you good luck in the future, but its a shame that you're surf board got broken ha ha. good luck x x
   comment# 12   - denny · liverpool huyton · Apr 15, 2008 @ 5:58am

Since I saw Jaw, I can't swiw far in the sea. When I was in Australia in 2000 the family I lived at had a boat and we used to go out in Sydney with the boat mostly in Sea Forth. Even though every body was swimming happily I couldn't take the shark idea out of my mind. That people get attacked is very crazy. You survived!!! You have a second chance! Good Luck!
   comment# 13   - Since1982 · Germany, Hamburg · Apr 22, 2008 @ 4:39am

I think that Mellin is really lucky to be alive and way to get on the board again. I think that saying the shark is a monster is true, a pit bull never killed a human, sharks have!
   comment# 14   - Shysta · Cleveland, Ohio · May 7, 2008 @ 10:32am

I have watched so many shark programmes from the smallest to the largest maneaters. All I can say is that you would not go play on the plains of the serengeti with lions without fully expecting to be eaten alive. It is by far not the shark that is at fault, they are the apex predator in the oceans and have every right to be there. When we enter their domain we have to remember that the ocean is their hunting ground and that anyone could be a possible meal. I dont believe in shark nets, or any other barbaric precautions that we use to wipe out the so called maneaters because whatever we do we cause so much damage to other sealife and continually damage the eco system. Next time I do sincerely hope that you do take into account the signs and time of your bathing and the consequences which could occur. If you had been eaten I would not be blaming the shark. Good luck in the future. happy surfing
   comment# 15   - lisa pain · essex united kingdom · May 8, 2008 @ 3:06pm

wow, that has to be the most gross thing i have ever seen, did you still go surfing, or did you give it up forever? Do you believe in God, i think He just saved you life, your luck to have you life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do you know who God is, what about Jesus? God sent His one and only son to die for you and me, Jesus willingly did this because He loves us so much!!! You know if Jesus wouldn't have come down from heaven to save us that we would spend ourlives in Hell for eternity!!! Aren't you glad to be alive to hear this great news? If you haven't asked Jesus to be your personal Savior, all you have to do is with your whold heart repent meaning you ask God to forgive you of your sins!!! YOu have to realize that you are a sinner, that you can't get to Heaven on your own, we need Jesus!!! And He saved your life for a reason if your not saved, you should be falling on your knees worshipping the Amazing Lord, because your not gonna spend you life in Hell for eternity, unless you don't repend and ask Jesus to Forgive you of your sins!!!!! But you have another chance your not burning alive in Hell right now regreting what you've done in the past!!!!! You have another chance, many people don't. My name is Karlee and im a 16 year old girl, that has repented of my sins and asked Jesus Christ to forgive me of my sins, i know i can't get to heaven on what i have done, i deserve to be in Hell but Jesus saved me and He will save you tooo if you just repent
   comment# 16   - Karlee Philpott · New Whiteland, Indiana, United States · May 16, 2008 @ 1:00pm

Omg i hope you heal up allright... I love sharks so much and i would love to go scuba diving side by side to 1, but not a great white because of what has happened to people in the past. Anyway I hope you get better soon xxx
   comment# 17   - Chloe Lockett · Market Bosworth, Leicstershire, United Kingdom · Jun 7, 2008 @ 5:41am

an interesting story you share for many others that have seen the movie jaws and/or have heard or not heard of other shark attacks. Like a previous commenter mentioned, watch for signs of sharks, and just be careful in your later times of surfing. Other than that, I have read that grey white sharks only attack what they think is prey, they aren't out to just attack every human that goes in the water. Just be careful, and keep doing what you love to do.
   comment# 18   - insomniacduck · Hayward, US · Jun 19, 2008 @ 1:05am

OK, this storie has just worsened my phobia, guess the water wont see me sometime soon. Hope you have recovered.
   comment# 19   - Celeste Mare · South Africa · Jun 27, 2008 @ 6:31am

Bru ! Loose some weight so the next time he pop's up he'll go for Leigh's leg or keep feeding him surf boards. Close one bro but just not your time. Get well soon bru and we'll see you back in the water.
   comment# 20   - dAMo · Nice, France · Jul 2, 2008 @ 10:22am

wow it seems as if u were in the jaws movie! if i was u i would punch him right in the gill!!! thats what your suppossed to do!
   comment# 21   - sydney sugrue · mendham, US · Jul 31, 2008 @ 7:28am

wow! i was bitten by a baby great white on the foot but it wasn't nearly as bad as this... i can't even imagine how terrified you were i thought i was scared of a 5 foot long shark! Geez.. but life goes on forgive and forget
   comment# 22   - lexy · sacramento, united states · Sep 25, 2008 @ 9:17pm

i was also bitten by shark it wasn't so bad just stay cool and take heart MERRY CHRISTMAS
   comment# 23   - fergie · freetown,south africa · Dec 11, 2008 @ 10:40am

Being bitten by shark and return into water? Someone is losing his mind...
   comment# 24   - misty · Zagreb, Croatia · Jan 1, 2009 @ 5:04pm

thats not bad i wont to see like a leg missing
   comment# 25   - jon · airway hights · Apr 8, 2009 @ 1:26pm

i agree with K. Philpott too
   comment# 26   - dexter "r" ricketts · morro bay, USA · May 4, 2009 @ 3:05pm

wow o..o these coments are funny to read
   comment# 27   - uh · toronto canada · May 24, 2009 @ 12:13am

Yea, i was in the water one day when a great white poked its head up right next to (about 15 feet away) in front of me. I wasnt really scared until i realized what it was..i initially thought it was a seal just becuase of the width and dark color but three seconds later it clicked and i was paddling back to shore praying to god this thing didnt come from underneathe seeing as i was still abot 30 yards from land..its easy to say that i might have been mistaken by what "poked" its head out of water but i just remember getting those instincual feelings of "im in trouble" and "that was NO seal". a lot people get right back into the water after something like this but im going to take it as a sign and stay out for a bit..
   comment# 28   - DiegoNative · San Dieo, CA · Aug 21, 2009 @ 12:25pm

wow. that looks very gross. I was just doing a little research on sharks. You are very lucky to be alive. That is amazing...and going back into the water is completely INSANE, but I give him lots of credit.
   comment# 29   - Breanna · Duluth, US · Dec 27, 2009 @ 2:08pm

   comment# 30   - jessica · England · Dec 28, 2009 @ 1:49pm

better u are not hurt so much.....
   comment# 31   - migthy sam · philippines · Feb 9, 2010 @ 10:37pm

thats hurt
   comment# 32   - jan paulo · netherlands · Feb 13, 2010 @ 2:17am

When i was attacked by the great white shark i was really horrifed and scared.
   comment# 33   - megan · australia · Mar 13, 2010 @ 11:42am

   comment# 34   - KOM JACKSEN · CHINA · Mar 19, 2010 @ 12:55pm

   comment# 35   - CASSIE · WILSON,NORTH CAOLINA · Jun 21, 2010 @ 11:50am

Congrats for making back to beach alive from your encounter w/great white & that you could get to hospital before bleeding out. Your survival instincts saved you; lesson for others is to keep composed & be ready to fight back. At least you had some warning that shark was there, most victims never see shark stalking him nor the initial strike. Surfing is such a great sport, hopefully you'll be back in water soon. It's just like falling off a horse; you just need to get right back on! I've been surfing since 1960 & have had a few encounters here on northerast coast of US with sharks. My closet encounter was with a huge great white. While surfing alone, all of a sudden I had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn't alone. I should have taken that as a sign to get out of the water right then. But the waves were huge & perfect, so I paddled back out. The great white charged at me in the trough between waves and just by luck did I survive it's attack.
   comment# 36   - GMac · Scituate, Massachusetts, USA · Oct 23, 2010 @ 7:21am

wow thats a crazy story..its really cool of yo.u to get back i.nthe water after that. i also think that it is tottaly not the sharks fault as surfers we know we have entered a different uncontrollable world in the ocean and it just so happens thats the sharks domain. love,
   comment# 37   - atley elliott · asheville nc · Dec 27, 2010 @ 6:11pm

Ouch i would screem very loudif i were him
   comment# 38   - samantha · va · Jan 2, 2011 @ 3:34pm

The sea belongs to its creatures. Surfers know they are taking risks. I admire those who go back to surfing after a shark attack. My family lives in Reunion Island where shark attacks are increasing for unknown reasons. Removing the sharks from the waters is not the solution. Don't want to be attacked? Don't go in the water, otherwhise, assume the risks of your endeavours in life!
   comment# 39   - Chantal Chopin · England · Oct 7, 2011 @ 5:17am

Dude I look up to u, that's a nasty bite brah, I love surfing its my life hope its all better now (y) that's jst awesome u got back into the water never give up !!:D
   comment# 40   - Paige Stevens · South Afrikan · Oct 21, 2012 @ 2:51pm
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