Victim of Shark Attack Saved after Husband Punches Shark Repeatedly

shark puncher claims to have acted on instinct to save wife

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

A man in New South Wales punched a shark repeatedly to save his wife, ABC News reported. The great white shark reportedly attacked his wife while she was surfing and he fought it off with his bare fists. Listening to your wildest instincts may save your life.

Woman surfing in the ocean
An Australian surfer climbed back onto her surfboard as a great white shark began attacking her leg. Photo By Wonderful Nature / Shutterstock

Mike Tyson may have some boxing competition in Australia. According to ABC News, “Mark Rapley and his wife Chantelle Doyle were spending the day at Shelly Beach at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, when the shark, which was described as being between six and 10 feet, attacked Doyle and threw her off her surfboard,” the article said.

“Rapley […] paddled to his wife’s board as she tried to climb back up while the shark grabbed her right calf. Rapley grabbed onto his wife’s surfboard and began punching the shark until it let her go.”

Survival instincts tell our bodies to do things we would think were crazy under normal circumstances. But sometimes they can save our lives.

False Sense of Security

“There are a lot of ways that we get in the way of our own instincts: We shut out our sensory input, we lull ourselves into a false sense of security, we make assumptions about human behavior, or we resign ourselves to what we think is inevitable,” said Dr. Nancy Zarse, Professor of Forensic Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

“But even when we are aware and do acknowledge our instincts, we can go astray in our assessment of the situation. This can happen in a few ways.”

Among the ways listed, Dr. Zarse first mentioned that we worry about the social consequences of how we act. For example, we may sense that someone is dangerous, but just in case they aren’t, we worry that we’ll appear rude if we treat them as though they’re a dangerous person. Alternatively, we may worry about getting in trouble or seeming insubordinate if we speak up about what our instincts tell us.

“We train for things on purpose and protocol is sometimes necessary to ensure the safety of many people, but we need to balance that with a healthy respect for what our instinct is telling us.”


“Instincts are our impulses encoded into our bodies evolutionarily to help us or our species to survive,” Dr. Zarse said. “They often manifest as strong, almost overwhelming urges or drives. A baby crying is instinctive behavior; a mother’s physical urge to comfort the crying baby is instinct.”

Dr. Zarse said that sexual desires can be traced back to instinct as can “desires to retaliate against injustice.” She said although we can choose how we act on those instincts, we can rarely choose how they make us feel.

“Some of these instincts are emotions, and we call these primary emotions,” she said. “The most common ones are fear, sadness, happiness, and anger. These happen as direct responses to an external experience.”

Whether or not we are punching a shark to save a loved one, instincts can kick in and drive us to actions we never knew were possible for us.

Dr. Nancy Zarse contributed to this article. Dr. Zarse is a Professor of Forensic Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, where she also received her PsyD.