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An Australian surfer who was attacked by a great white shark has been described as “the luckiest man on Earth” after he escaped with minor injuries.

Abe McGrath was surfing off the north coast of New South Wales when the 3.5m (11ft) shark snapped his board, gashed his hip and flung him into the air.

The shark began to circle the 35-year-old but thankfully turned away – allowing him to grab half his board and make his way back to shore.

The shark's bite snapped the surfboard in half

Image: The shark’s bite snapped the surfboard in half

During Sunday morning’s attack, Mr McGrath’s wetsuit was torn by the shark’s teeth, leaving a gash on his right hip.

He was driven to nearby Ballina Hospital by friends, and then flown to Lismore Hospital for further treatment before being discharged on Sunday night.

Bryce Cameron, who was on the beach at the time, told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that Mr McGrath would have lost his leg if he had been sitting on the board when the shark struck.

Abe McGrath pictured in 2012. Pic: Facebook

Image: Abe McGrath pictured in 2012. Pic: Facebook

Elijah Colbey, who was the only other surfer out in the water at the time, was about 50m (164ft) away when Mr McGrath got into difficulty.

He said: “I looked back and saw Abe skimming across the water splashing. Then I hear ‘f*** off, f*** off’ and my nickname being called out.

“I started paddling towards him for help and then my mind clicked to it being the worst possible outcome.

Abe McGrath suffered a bite to the leg in the attack

Image: Abe McGrath suffered a bite to the leg in the attack

Mr Colbey said his friend was relieved after returning to the shore, adding: “He was stoked, he wasn’t in shock yet, he was really happy to be alive and in front of his mates.

“We were all giving him big hugs and felt pretty lucky to have him there.”

One of Mr McGrath’s friends posted an image of his broken board to Instagram, adding: “Life could have been very different this morning. So stoked to still have our mate and not witness something far worse.”

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