A year after a great white shark sunk its teeth into surfer Andrew 'Nugget' Brough's body at a Northland beach the gutsy plumber is back at work and, most importantly, back in the water.

Brough and best mate Tohi Henry were surfing at Baylys Beach, near Dargaville on October 19 last year when Brough suddenly felt like he had been smacked in the face.

"Something [had] come up and hit me in the face, obviously bit my arm... but my initial reaction was [had] a surfer come into me?" Brough told the Herald on Sunday from his hospital room a day after the attack.

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He saw the shark's body flip over his board and start thrashing underneath him.

The apex predator's teeth — later identified by a shark expert as "unmistakably" belonging to a great white — would later be found lodged in both his board and his arm.

Paddling for his life 150m towards the shore, Brough could see blood from the bite on his arm gushing out of his wetsuit.

A rescue helicopter flight to Whangārei Hospital, surgery on his arm and about 40 stitches followed, and the plumber was off work for several weeks before he returned to light duties.

A year on the 26-year-old has nine scars on his left arm and hand, including one 15cm long and another 10cm long, and the only permanent damage appears to be one "lazy finger".

But the mental scars took a while to heal, he told the Herald on Sunday today.

"I was starting to get a bit funny about it. I just wanted to get back in the water, I didn't want it to get to me anymore. I didn't want to sit there and think about it anymore."

So eight weeks after the attack, he called Henry and asked if he wanted to go for a surf at Horohora on Northland's East Coast.

With only his mate for company on the deserted beach, Brough dipped his feet back in the water for the first time.

"It was good, although the first time [Henry] got a wave I was like 'oh', and looking around. But it felt good. I told my parents and they were happy as for me."

Brough had a new board after Australian surf store JS Industries donated one to replace the bitten board which, with the shark's teeth and his torn wetsuit, are framed in the entrance to his home.

But it would be more than three months before he would return to Baylys Beach.

"Four of the boys said we're going to Baylys and you're coming. I said 'I'll come and watch', but I took my board.

"The whole journey [to the beach] I was nervous the whole way."

Brough said when they arrived his mates put the pressure on to get him in the water but he knew it was something "I just had to do for myself".

"When I was paddling out I couldn't really focus. The surf was really good that day, but my mind was racing ... I've surfed other places since the attack that are more sharky, it was more about the place [being where the attack occurred]."

Despite his fears, Brough stayed in the water for about an hour, before a large number of kingfish began feeding on bait fish.

"There was heaps of splashing and I was like 'f*** that, I'm just going to go back and watch'."

Back on dry land, he was delighted with his achievement.

"I was stoked. I just had a couple of beers on the beach ... I'd be gutted if I couldn't surf, so there's no point in holding back."

Now Brough, who says he loves surfing because it feels like "freedom", heads out whenever the waves are good — usually at least once a week — and also goes scuba diving.

Northland surfer Andrew Brough speaks about the moment a great white shark sunk its teeth into his body.

But he'll never forget the day he came face to face with one of the world's most feared predators.

"Yes, I've kept surfing, but I've had a couple of times where my mates have popped up in front of me in the water and I've given a good scream."

Brough was also tickled to discover Lion Red had added a quiz question about his attack — asking drinkers to name the beach where it occurred — to their bottle tops, although he was still waiting for the free beer.

"I deserved some beer from them for that."

Soon after the attack Brough joked that he should swap stories over a beer with Australian legend Mick Fanning, who survived an encounter with a suspected great white during a surfing contest in South Africa four years ago.

But now he's realised he's the one with the better story.

"He didn't even get attacked. He should be asking to meet me."