Kitesurfer Chris Keeping fights off repeated attacks by crocodile near Darwin beach, vows to go back in the water.
A kitesurfer who fought off a crocodile as it attacked him numerous times off a Darwin beach says he will go back into the water.
Chris Keeping, 29, was 100 metres off shore at Casuarina Coastal Reserve’s Lee Point, about 15 kilometres from Darwin, when he was attacked by the 2.5-metre saltwater crocodile about 11:30am on Saturday 16th May.
“I usually look for crocodiles when I’m down there before I enter the water … and there was another kitesurfer setting up at the same time,” Mr Keeping told ABC Darwin radio.
“I’d been cruising around for at least two hours … I went down in a bad spot, a hundred metres from the beach down the end near the point and the wind dropped off. My kite folded onto itself.
“I knew I was in a bit of a bad situation because I was in deep water and I knew I couldn’t stand. I was floating around and kept constantly checking around me.”
Mr Keeping said he was sitting on his board when he became aware of something in the water.
“I didn’t see him until the last minute, and then just a massive bang, he smashed me like a Mack truck. And next minute I’m just getting shaken violently left to right,” he said.
“I knew it was a croc, I hadn’t seen it yet but I just knew it was a crocodile.”
Mr Keeping said he was overcome with fear at that moment.
“Sheer panic, I went like a ragdoll, I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
“When he stopped shaking I realised I was in his mouth and he hit me from the right side … he had my shoulder and the right side of my back in his mouth and he pinned my arm down. I had one arm free but there was not much I could do.”
‘He came around like a freight train’
Mr Keeping said he thought he had no chance of survival.
“I thought … ‘I’m out in the middle of the ocean, there’s no-one around, I think this is it, I think I’m gone. I don’t think I’ve got a chance against this bastard’,” he said.
“I was paralysed with fear, but he blinked at me, he winked his eye.
“Because I was attached to my kite, it acted like a massive brake … he was trying to pull me back but he’s pulling the whole weight of a 40-metre kite, so he couldn’t get me down under.
“Because I grew up in the Territory, born and bred, it’s like, everybody sticks their finger in a crocodile’s eye, so I just thought I’d go for gold and got my index finger and just shoved it as hard as I could straight into his eye socket,” Mr Keeping said.
“He dropped me and spun around. He came around like a freight train and tried to hit me again.
“Every time he came in I just used the board and just hit as hard as I could on his face, anywhere that I could get contact with him with my board.
Mr Keeping said the croc kept circling for another attempt at him.
“I never thought in the world that I’d get back to the beach,” Mr Keeping said.
“He kept circling and would come in and try to hit me, and I’d give him a bit of grief with the board. The board would bounce over his snout and hit him in the eye area, so I think that deterred him a bit.
“Once I got sand under my feet it was only a couple more minutes before the water went to about waist deep. He came in, then stopped in front of me and just dropped into the murky water, and that’s when I freaked because I couldn’t see him.
“I just kept stabbing the board into the water and picking up pace and running backwards.
“Once I got onto the beach I ran up two metres and sat down and thought ‘did that really happen’? Am I still here?’”
‘There’s a massive croc out there, you need to get out of the water’
Mr Keeping said once on the beach he began to take stock of what had happened.
“Right where he got me in the shoulder I expected there to be a puncture wound and I saw blood dropping out of it on one side,” he said.
Mr Keeping said he noticed another kitesurfer, who had helped him retrieve his board when he crashed earlier in the day, was still out on the water not too far from where he had last seen the crocodile.
“I got up and ran down the beach waving my arms at him, got his attention and got him to come back in,” Mr Keeping said.
“I said to him: ‘Man, there’s a massive croc out there, you need to get out of the water’.”
“He had pretty broken English … I think he was a bit confused, but once I showed him the blood coming off my arm and stuff like that I think he realised what was happening.”
Mr Keeping said he ran to his gear on the beach and called his sister.
“[I said] ‘I need you to come down to the beach, I’ve just been smashed by a croc. I’m alright, but I need you to get down here, I need to get to the hospital, big time’,” he said.
“She said ‘Do I need to call an ambulance?’ and I said, ‘it’s not that bad, I’m not missing a limb’.”
He said he and his friends always looked for crocs before they surfed off the Darwin coast.
“It takes you 30 minutes to set up your rig, blow up your kite, do your strings and all the rest of it. The whole time you do that you’re constantly looking at the ocean. If there’s a croc in the water you just never go in,” he said.
“There is a river outlet up from there that’s famous for crocodiles and you do get the odd one that cruises out or gets kicked out of the creek, and he’ll motor around to another creek in the harbour, so they’re sort of travelling from creek to creek. They’re not really hunting but they’ll still have a go.”
But despite his experience, Mr Keeping said he loved kitesurfing and would continue to do it.
“I’ll definitely go back out and do it, but I don’t think I’ll ever go to Lee Point again,” he said.
A very lucky boy, says veteran croc catcher
NT Parks and Wildlife crocodile management veteran Tommy Nichols said Mr Keeping was “a very lucky boy”.
He said he had visited Mr Keeping in hospital.
“He is a strong, young lad,” he said.
“Obviously he was pretty frightened at the time; the ordeal is starting to sink in.”
As for the whereabouts of the crocodile, Mr Nichols could not say.
“He is around somewhere … we don’t know where,” he said.