It was his first time out on a new kayak in Bedok Reservoir and it ended with him in severe pain and bleeding profusely.
Mr Kian Wai Seetoh, 19, fell in the water after his kayak capsized near a pontoon several metres away from the shore.
As the Temasek Polytechnic (TP) student tried to climb onto the pontoon, he felt pain and realised something was biting the toes of his right foot.
The incident happened last September as Mr Seetoh and his poly mates were gearing up for the POL-ITE competition.
Since then, there have been more cases of leg injuries, prompting national water agency PUB to suspend water activities for a month recently.
Recalling the incident, Mr Seetoh, a biotechnology student, told The New Paper yesterday that soon after he fell into the water, he felt what seemed like the scales of a fish brushing against his leg.
He then felt a fish biting his toes.
"The pain wasn't sharp. It was like the feeling you get when you get a blue-black bruise so I didn't expect it to bleed so much.
"When I got bitten, I pulled my leg out of the water. Then I saw the cut and the blood. It was gushing out. The whole pontoon was covered in blood," he said.
When he got out of the water and onto the pontoon, he was shocked to see gaping cuts around his toes on his right foot and blood spilling out.
He then tried to call for help.
His teammate, Ms Janice Ng, 19, said: "I saw him waving his hands trying to call for help. The pontoon was covered with blood. He was in shock."
Another teammate rowed out on a boat and took Mr Seetoh back to shore.
Taken to hospital
Soon after, his father arrived to drive him to Singapore General Hospital, where he was given 13 stitches for his wounds.
It took three weeks before he could walk normally again.
Mr Seetoh was not the only victim of the mysterious attacks in Bedok Reservoir.
Two of his teammates also sustained cuts after their vessels capsized.
One of them, Mr Nicholas Ong, 19, suspects that he was bitten by a turtle, judging from his wounds. "His cut looks like ones you get when you've been pinched really hard. (He) went under the same pontoon I did," said Mr Seetoh.
Since then, the TP canoe team has changed its training schedule, cutting down from six times a week to once a week.
The school has also ruled that either a teacher or coach must be present for them to train in the water.
Asked if he was now afraid to step into a kayak again, Mr Seetoh said: "Not really because once you get your balance right, the chances of you capsizing are very low.
"I started training again after four weeks."
In response to queries by TNP, a spokesman for national water agency PUB said: "Following the incidents, PUB had advised schools and the water sports operators to remind their participants to exercise care when in the water and to wear covered footwear and avoid submerging their feet in the water, where possible.
"This is because some fish or turtle may bite when disturbed or when protecting their young.
"There has not been any incident since Dec 14 and we will continue to monitor the situation closely."