A 65-year-old man was mauled by a shark off Australia's most populous state on Friday, but managed to get back on his surf ski and get help for a serious leg injury, police said.

David Quinlivan was paddling a surf ski near the New South Wales state town of Forster, 185 miles north of Sydney, when he was attacked, police said. They said he fell into the water but got back on the surf ski and managed to get closer to shore, where bystanders were able to help him from the water.

One of those bystanders, Warren Thompson, said he and others ran into the surf to help Quinlivan.

"He had lost his paddle but was able to climb back onto the ski and caught a wave to the shore," Thompson said.

Thompson added: "It looked to us like he was having a heart attack. When we reached him, he told us to stay out of the water."

Quinlivan was flown by helicopter for emergency surgery to a leg injury. The state ambulance service described that injury as serious.

Two weeks ago, a 38-year-old surfer suffered life-threatening injuries when he was attacked by a shark at Port Macquarie, 60 miles north of Forster.

Three weeks earlier, a 52-year-old surfer was seriously injured as he repeatedly punched a shark that mauled him off Evans Head, 140 miles north of Port Macquarie, in the 11th attack -- including one fatality --  in five months along a 12-mile stretch of northern New South Wales coast.

On Feb. 9, a 41-year-old Japanese tourist was killed around the tourist town of Ballina, also is northern New South Wales. The only fatal attack in Australia since then was in July, when a 46-year-old diver was killed off the island state of Tasmania, 1,000 miles south of Ballina.

Sharks are common off Australia's beaches, but fatal attacks are rare. The country has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.