great white shark
Australian surfer fights for life after Great White attack (Michael Heilemann/Flickr)

An Australian surfer was in a critical condition last night after after fending off a Great White shark.

Former champion boxer Craig Ison, 52, landed several punches to the shark's head in a desperate fight for survival off Evan's Head beach in New South Wales in the attack during his regular morning swim on Friday (31 July).

The incident eerily echoes the attack on professional surfer Mick Fanning who survived an encounter with a Great White Shark during a competition at Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa last month.

Ison who had been taken to Lismore Base Hospital following the attack has now been transferred to Gold Coast Hospital.

Surgeons had operated on Ison's left leg and arm at Lismore Base yesterday following the shark attack, but his condition is understood to have worsened with relatives waiting anxiously for news of his condition following the decision to airlift him to the larger hospital on the Gold Coast.

Tom Augustine a friend of Ison's told The Times in a report that there were issues with "arteries or veins bursting" and it was reported the surfer's condition had seriously deteriorated.

His sister-in-law Norina Ison also told the paper that she was not surprised at the bravery of Ison in tackling the shark that is believed to have attacked the experienced surfer from behind savaging his left arm and left leg.

She told the paper: "It would have been his first instinct. We're all shocked, but it doesn't surprise us that he's done that."

The three beaches that make up Evan's Head -- Main Beach, Shark Bay, Chinamans Beach and Airforce Beach -- are now closed to swimmers following the incident and are not expected to open for at least another 24 hours after several shark sightings were reported to authorities.
Surf Life Saving NSW closed the beaches on Friday after Ison was mauled by the shark. They will be reassessed at first light on Sunday morning (August 2).

After studying images of Ison's surf board, a large bite mark was discovered, a shark expert from the Department of Primary Industries has since confirmed that the attack was by a Great White Shark.

Shark attacks are becoming more common in Australia. Last month, 32-year-old bodyboarder Matthew Lee was mauled by a shark at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach also in the New South Wales territory, sustaining serious injuries to his lower legs. In February, a Great White Shark killed 41-year-old surfer Tadashi Nakahara at neighbouring Shelly Beach.

Shark attack incidents

The Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF) investigated 23 reported incidents of shark and human interaction occurring between 1 January to 31 December 2014 within Australian waters. Eleven of these incidents represent confirmed cases of unprovoked shark attacks.

The number of unprovoked cases last year was one above the 10 unprovoked encounters recorded in 2013 but remained below the average of 13 unprovoked cases per year.