CNN  — 

A shark attack on a surfer in Australia has forced the temporary suspension of an international surfing competition.

The victim, Alejandro Travaglini, 37, was bitten on the leg by a shark off Gracetown in Western Australia on Monday morning.

He managed to paddle back to shore and a rescue helicopter ferried him to hospital.

Surf photographer Peter Jovic told ABC news he had witnessed the attack.

“[I] saw the guy who had been attacked get separated from the [surf] board and then start to paddle for an inside wave, which he managed to body surf all the way in,” he said.

“They got him to shore and started working on him to stem the bleeding.”

“This thing was a big shark and it wanted to eat him,” fellow surfer and witness Adam Kennedy told the Seven Network. “He was literally fighting for his life. He was yelling and punching and he was on the back of this thing.

Travaglini was reported to be in a stable condition. In a statement released from his hospital bed, he said: “I just want to thank all the legends who helped me at the beach.”

The attack forced an international surfing competition nearby, the World Surf League’s (WSL) Margaret River Pro 2018, to be put on hold.

The WSL later said the competition, which forms part of the its World Championship Tour and features top ranked surfers, was back up and running.

“After an hour hold, the #MargiesPro is back on with enhanced safety measures, including ski and drone presence in the line-up,” it said in a tweet.

A few hours later another surfer was attacked by a shark a mile away from the first incident. The victim, Justin Longrass, was treated for a leg injury at the scene.

An alert was also issued about a whale carcass found at a nearby beach. Surfers and swimmers were warned it could attract sharks.

WSL officials suspended the competition on Tuesday due to a “deteriorating swell and onshore conditions,” later adding they were monitoring the situation after the shark attacks.

Surfers voiced their fears over the attacks. Joint world champion Italo Ferreira said on Instagram: “Life is worth more! I hope it doesn’t happen to any of us. I don’t feel comfortable training and competing in places like this.”

According to ABC, pro surfer John John Florence had a close shave with sharks while surfing in the area just before the competition.

He said that he had seen something in the water and a splash before he raced back to shore. He put a drone in the air whose footage revealed two large sharks.