'It was like punching a brick wall': Man saves wife from shark attack with flurry of punches

The brave husband of a woman attacked by a great white shark on Australia’s east coast said he punched the animal instinctively without thinking he was saving her life.

When a juvenile great white latched on to Chantelle Doyle’s right calf, Mark Rapley started repeatedly punching it to save his wife's life in Port Macquarie.

Mr Rapley said his wife was surfing a few metres away from him when the shark attacked her.

As his wife recovers from surgery, Mr Rapley told 9 News Sydney it felt like “punching a brick wall”.

“You see the mother of your child, your support, everything… so you just react... all I could think is just ‘get off’,” he said.

“It hit her with a force, threw her off the board.

"When I got over there I saw it was on her calf, your immediate reaction is 'get off her calf' so I was trying to leverage punches down onto it.”

Chantelle Doyle was taken to hospital. Credit: AP/9 News Australia

He continued: “She’s a conservationist and a botanist, doing a PhD… she was kind of worried about the shark.”

James Turner, a lifeguard supervisor at the beach, said a helicopter came to collect her after ambulances were already on the scene.

The beach was closed following the attack. Credit: AP/9 News Australia

Paramedics were called on Saturday morning to Shelly Beach at Port Macquarie, 250 miles (400km) north of Sydney, after the 35-year-old woman was attacked while surfing.

She was taken to a local hospital with serious leg injuries, but has since been flown to a nearby bigger hospital where she underwent nine hours of surgery.

Beaches in Port Macquarie have been closed for 24 hours as authorities attempt to track the shark.

There have been five fatal shark attacks in Australian waters in 2020, higher than the country's average of three deadly attacks a year.