What does it take to paddle into shark-infested waters to help a wounded friend? Ask Australian surfer Aaron “Noddy” Wallis.

Wallis had been surfing only 10 minutes with his buddy Dave Pearson, 47, when Pearson was attacked. The shark tore the flesh from Pearson’s right arm and left him with deep cuts on his forehead. Despite Wallis’s survival instinct, it only took him a moment to decide to paddle into the deadly waters.

The incident happened so fast that both barely had time to understand what had happened. When recounting the event to The Telegraph, 29-year-old Wallis said, “It all happened in less than two or three seconds … Dave was looking at me and I said to him, ‘What was that?’ and he said, ‘A shark’ … I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Are you OK?’ and he said, ‘No’.”

At that moment neither knew where the shark had gone. Far from claiming to be fearless, Wallis told The Telegraph, “I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to die,” adding, “Dave didn’t know what was going on – one second he was saying, ‘Go’ and the next, ‘Stay’. It would have been OK if you could have seen the shark.”

Wallis was able to paddle through his fear, however, to rescue his bleeding friend by propping Pearson on the board and paddling him back to shore. Wallis breathed a sigh of relief once they were into shallow water, after several dire minutes of uncertainty.

After the encounter Wallis also acknowledged the strength Pearson showed: “Dave was so good, though. He walked up the beach himself…” Wallis fashioned a tourniquet from an ankle strap and wrapped Pearson’s arm in a towel to control the bleeding until emergency medical services arrived.

Because of his selflessness during this sudden emergency Pearson has nominated Wallis for the Pride of Australia award.

After five hours of surgery, Pearson was in stable condition and able to retain the use of his arm. Adam Eady, caretaker of the beach, commented to The Telegraph, “The shark bit through his board – if it hadn’t of been there it would have ripped him in half.”

Wallis admitted, looking back, that they should not have been surfing at dusk. “If you’re going to get attacked, that would be the time,” he said.

So what is the moral of this story? Use a quality board, the buddy system, and follow your instincts. Personally, I would enjoy sunset more on the beach, than on the dinner menu.