A French tourist is recovering in a New Zealand hospital after she was bitten on the leg by a shark while bodyboarding.

Catlins Surf School owner Nick Smart says the woman was playing in the surf with her boyfriend and another French couple on a calm Thursday afternoon at Porpoise Bay at the southern end of New Zealand when the shark attacked.

He says he saw somebody running down the beach and had a strong feeling something was wrong.

He says he drove to where the French tourists were dragging the woman up the beach. He says the woman, who appeared to be in her early 20s, remained conscious and calm while waiting for a helicopter to arrive.

Dunedin Hospital says the woman remains there in a stable condition.