Brett Connellan: Surfer shares his amazing recovery after shark ate ‘three quarters of his thigh’

NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA: In 2016, Brett Connellan was surfing along the New South Wales coast when a freak incident changed the life of the would-be ripper forever. Out of the blue, a massive great white shark attacked the 22-year-old, severely maiming him and tearing off three-quarters of his thigh.

Connellan, who nearly bled to death and underwent a series of surgeries, has been told he may never walk again. However, seven years after the traumatic experience, the athlete is back in the water and ready to share his story with the world in a new documentary titled ‘Attacking Life’. The film recounts the terrifying scenes during and after the savage attack when Connellan’s buddy, Joel Tryst, dragged him ashore on his surfboard.


“There was blood everywhere”

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“Having learned that failure isn’t about aiming high and missing, but about aiming low and hitting, Attacking Life follows Brett as he tests the limits of the possible – from surfing the big blue barrels of Cloudbreak to Fiji, paddling through the Kai’wi Channel (or ‘channel of bones’) between the islands of Moloka’i and Oahu in Hawaii,” reads the description alongside the ‘Attacking Life’ trailer. “However, Brett’s renewed mindset surpasses these physical feats – one that sees him sharing his experience to improve the lives of others.”

“I didn’t see it coming”

Connellan recalled there was no sign of danger when he entered the water seven years ago on a fateful evening in Kiama on the NSW south coast. However, the surfer’s paddling in the ocean off Bombo Beach nearly killed him when a shark came out of nowhere and bit his thigh. “A lot of people ask me – did you see it coming?” Connellan said during an appearance on Weekend Today. “Can you see the fin going through the water? I say sharks are incredibly good at what they do. I didn’t see it coming.” He added: “For the speed of the moment, he was also so slow.”

Trist’s wife, Agie, a nurse by profession, used her surfboard rope as a tourniquet to stop the blood loss. “There was a lot of luck on the beach and that extended to recovery having the right people around me throughout,” Connellan said. “It’s a bit unheard of when you lose three quarters of your left quad and we didn’t know what the long term effects would be.” He said doctors told him he would never be able to walk again due to severe injuries to his leg. Surgeons would have used his side muscle to cover the exposed bone and ensure he didn’t need to be amputated.

Back to the ocean

Connellan managed to defy all odds and learned to walk again with his injuries. The athlete said his love of surfing meant it was only a matter of time before he was back in the water. “For me, the hardest thing about getting back into the water was not knowing how I was going to surf,” he explained. “Surfing was a big part of my life and I had no idea what that end goal would look like and what it would mean to me. It’s not something you can give up. It’s not too much about chasing the dream of becoming a professional surfer, I don’t do it anymore because I love it now.”

Connellan now hopes his documentary will help others overcome obstacles in their own lives, no matter how small. “To me, I’m just an ordinary person that something irregular happened to,” he said. “We will have our own version of a shark attack and I mean if my story can make people look at their own experiences in a different way and they can be inspired when they come across an obstacle in life , that would be my goal,” added the surfer.

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