Glenn Orgias survived what most people fear: a shark attack while surfing at Bondi Beach. Now back in the water and surfing with just one arm, Glenn has told his story in the book, 'Man in a Grey Suit'. We talked to Glenn to hear how his life has changed since the incident and his tips to avoid a shark attack.
1. What led you back to the water after the attack?
Surfing had helped me so much in my life. It had helped me to find peace and manage anxiety and depression. It had become a part of who I was. I loved to get out into nature and push myself beyond my comfortable boundaries. I can see now that I was always going to go back after the attack. My wife helped me with it. As with everything, she was my inspiration.
2. Can you describe what it felt like to catch your first wave?
Relief. I had known that I would be able to force myself back into the water, but I didn’t know if I would be able to enjoy it, or be able to stand up on my board. But when I got out into the ocean again I felt okay. I felt good. I stood up on my second wave and afterwards I looked through the water to the sand below and I thought ‘This is so beautiful,’ and I thought ‘but I really suck at duckdiving one handed.’
3. How difficult is it to surf with this new technique?
Duckdiving is harder. It’s hard to control the board in turbulence with one hand, but I’m getting there with that, slowly. My paddling is less efficient. I get out paddled by 10-year-olds on occasion. They can paddle. But I have a new fin on my arm that is a great help. Once I’m up on a wave, it’s not so difficult, not so different to how it was before.
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4. Why did you decide to write Man in a Grey Suit? Was it a difficult process?
I have wanted to be a writer for some time. I had written an unpublished novel prior to the attack. After the attack I started writing about the shark to get it out of my head. It was a kind of therapy, and then a larger story about surfing, overcoming anxiety and falling in love came together.
5. How has your experience changed the way you approach each day?
Little things occasionally infuriate me; drying my back, doing up zippers, tying knots. But, compensating for that is an overall feeling of joy I have at being alive and being here every day to see my beautiful family. I understand the way fear works in me better than I did and it doesn’t hold me back like it used to.
6. The attack happened at twilight – one of the most common times for shark attacks. Would you still go surfing at this time, given the risks?
Yes I would, but it would depend heavily on the conditions at the time. I have a few rules I live by now...
- Surf when the sun is above the horizon, unless it is ridiculously pumping and is going to be one of the top surfs of my life…..
- But...don’t surf at dusk if it is messy and overcast.
- Once the decision to surf has been made, some things (ie: sharks) are going to be uncontrollable, so don’t waste energy worrying about them, they are too clever, just enjoy the surf.
- If surfing in New South Wales between May and September, ignore the above - there has never been a recorded attack in that period.
7. What's next for you?
I’d like to run the City to Surf in under an hour. I’d like to write and publish a novel. And I’d like to find a work life balance that gives me more time with my family.
8. Whats your attitude towards the ocean like now?
Healthy marine life and sharks means our oceans are healthy. And I love the ocean. I think we ought to take better care of sharks, and the ocean, than we do.
9. Where is your favourite surf spot?
Lennox Head, New South Wales.
10. What advice do you have for people who fear the ocean due to shark attacks?
Shark attacks are rare. There are many other more dangerous activities we undertake daily, such as driving a car. And fear is just a feeling, it doesn’t hurt. I just let it be there, I don’t resist it or fight it, it bothers me occasionally but doesn’t stop me doing what I love. The more I treat fear this way, the less it seems to bother me.
About 'Man in a Grey Suit'