There are few things Lydia Ward loves more than hitting the waves on her surfboard. But her favorite pastime turned into a nightmare in early February when she was attacked by a man-eating Mako shark.
Astonishingly, the 14-year-old didn’t panic – she fought back!
"I suddenly remembered something I’d read somewhere – the memory flashed through my mind that a shark may stop attacking and swim away if you keep hitting it. I didn’t know if this was true, but it seemed like the only thing I could do," the gutsy teen, who lives in Invercargill, New Zealand, later recalled.
The drama began when Lydia and her brother went to a popular New Zealand beach late in the afternoon of Feb. 2.
Lydia was chest-deep in the water when she recalls stepping on "something a bit spongy."
"I had no idea I’d stepped on a shark, but then, through the water I saw something big swimming away from me – it was a shark much bigger than me.
"The shark U-turned a short distance away. It was heading back and aiming straight for me!
"I felt the bite when it grabbed me in its jaws. It was like having pins spearing into my body and being squeezed like crazy at the same time. It got me at the top of my right thigh, just below my hip."
Surprisingly, Lydia says that she wasn’t afraid – she was angry!
"I was furious that it thought of me as a meal. I tried to move my leg – but couldn’t. Instinctively, I lashed out at the shark.
"I don’t know how many times I hit it with my board. Again…and again…and again I used the edge of my board to smack it as hard as I could on the top of the head.
"All the time I was praying, ‘Please, God, make it go away!’
"Suddenly, I felt searing pain – and the pressure relaxed.
"I was no longer in the shark’s grip. It was swimming away. The water around me had turned red from my blood.
"My brother and I waded to shore. I felt my heart pounding. I was worried my blood in the water would make the dangerous fish return – or attract other sharks…
"But, luckily, that didn’t happen. In a minute or two, we were out of the water."
Lydia’s mom Fiona told The ENQUIRER that at first she didn’t believe her daughter had been bitten. "I thought she was joking because she was so calm and matter-of-fact. That’s the way she is. She just said: ‘I’ve been bitten by a shark.’
"Then I saw the holes in her wet suit. There was blood dripping onto the sand."
Lydia is now back home after being treated at a hospital for the deep puncture wounds inflicted by the shark’s teeth. She is expected to make a full recovery.
She says she plans to stay out of the water while she heals – but after that, it’s surf’s up – back on her beloved board.