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5 shark attack survivors explain how they made it out alive

Five shark attack survivors shared their stories on TODAY, including Austin Reed, 19, a surfer who returned to the spot where he was bitten only weeks later.
/ Source: TODAY

A 19-year-old surfer who suffered a vicious shark bite last month was determined to face his fears as soon as his wounds healed.

Not only did Austin Reed return to the ocean just over a month after the attack, he went back to the exact site of the harrowing encounter, North Carolina's Ocean Isle Beach.

"I went back to the spot where I got bit,'' Reed told Willie Geist and Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Wednesday. "I thought that was the best way to get closure."

Reed was one of five shark attack survivors who shared their stories on TODAY Wednesday.

He was joined by Keane Webre-Hayes, who needed 1,000 stitches after being attacked in California while lobster diving; Tiffany Johnson, a mother of three whose right arm was amputated after she was bitten while snorkeling in the Bahamas; Lola Pollina, who was bitten at New York's Fire Island last year; and Jonathan Hernandez, who was attacked last month while spearfishing in the Bahamas.

Reed was surfing on June 8 when a shark bit his right foot. A friend helped bring him safely to shore, while his mother, who is a nurse, made a tourniquet out of a beach towel before paramedics arrived.

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As soon as he began recovering, he knew he wanted to get back in the ocean soon.

"Originally I was going to go to a different beach to surf, but I thought that would've been cheating myself, kind of,'' he said. "I just wanted to go head on straight back to the spot where I could take on my fear of getting back in the water."

Hernandez, an experienced diver and professional boat captain, said the most important item ocean swimmers can take to the beach in case of a shark attack is a tourniquet.

His friends made one from weight belts used for diving to help slow the bleeding in his left calf after the attack on June 21.

"A tourniquet is the single biggest thing that saved my life,'' Hernandez said on TODAY Wednesday. "Twenty or 30 bucks, fits in your pocket. It's just a really simple piece of equipment. Essentially, bleeding out is the biggest fear, so just be prepared."

Despite their life-threatening encounters with sharks, the survivors had no animosity toward the predators.

"I think they get a bad rap,'' Reed said.

"We are in their territory and they're animals, so they're unpredictable,'' Johnson added.