The great white shark bit off Lilienfeld's right leg while he was in the water with his brother and friends, reported CNN.
Lucille Bester, a witness to the attack, told the Independent Online that she had seen the shark about 20 to 30 yards from where Lilienfeld and his friends were.
We started screaming from the top that there was a shark. Being from Joburg, we didn't know how to get down the mountain. But they could not hear us, she said to the Independent Online.
The shark disappeared, but the next thing we saw the shark come from under one of the guys and grab him. The shark shook him and then let him go. The surfer was screaming -- it was terrible!
Then it took him again. And that was it. It took him under. The first time it took him, there wasn't any blood. But the second time there was, said Bester.
Mat Marais said Lilienfeld tried to fight the shark off with his board.
It killed him on the third attempt. It bit his leg clean off, said Marais to The Cape Times.
His right leg was bitten off to the hip. He had no other injuries.
Andre Visser, a worker from the ambulance service ER24, said paramedics saw Lilienfeld's leg floating in the water with the surfboard cord still attached. They were unable to recover the leg, reported the Telegraph.
Gustav, Lilienfeld's younger brother, got the body on the board and brought it back to shore.. Bystanders at the shore could not get the body on the shore while the shark circled in the shallow water. Only after the shark left could they haul the body up. Gustav was not injured in the attack.
The 20-year-old champion bodyboarder died at the scene. Maris believes Lilienfeld bleed out.
Paramedics arrived 10 minutes after the incident occurred but they could not save him.
Lilienfeld's father, Dirk told media at the scene that David was a Springbok bodyboarder. This was his life and he died doing what he loved.
Lilienfeld represented South Africa at the World Bodyboarding Championship in November. South African Bodyboarding Association Vice President Part Harris said it was a humongous loss, reported the Telegraph.
A junior surfing competition held Friday held a moment of silence for Lilienfeld.
In the name of the ISA and all delegations participating in the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of David Lilienfeld, a member of the Surfing South Africa Team and SA Bodyboarding that competed in the 2011 ISA World Bodyboard Championship in the Canary Islands, wrote Fernando Aguerre, president of the International Surfing Association, according to Surfer Today.
Chumming - the cause of Lilienfeld's death?
'Chumming' may have contributed to Lilienfeld's death. 'Chumming is the practice of luring animals, usually fish or sharks by throwing in bits of fish parts and blood, nicknamed chum. The scent of blood is picked up by sharks, which have a keen sense of smell.
A week leading up to the attack, the documentary 'Shark Men' was set to film at the bay. Chumming was making headlines in local newspapers. Yet after yesterday's attack, all the permits for the show were cancelled.
'We have cancelled all the permits for the Shark Men filming and research project following the attack today, said Department of the Environment spokesman Zolile Nqayi Wednesday, according to the Daily Mail.
'There has been considerable controversy about this project which we have noted, however we have always believed that the project would not result in any increased risk to the public. We do not believe that today's attack was linked to the Shark Man filming but have decided to stop this whole thing now to prevent panic among the public, he said.
A National Geographic Channel spokesman denied all involvement in the event.
While it is true we do have a series currently airing on National Geographic Channel called 'Shark Men' with Chris Fischer, we have not renewed the series for another season, have no plans to at the moment, and are not filming new episodes at this time. Therefore, the filming we understand is taking place in South Africa is not for National Geographic Channel or for future episodes of Shark Men. National Geographic Channel shares our sincere condolences to the family of the surfer killed yesterday off the coast of South Africa, said the spokesman.
National Sea Rescue Institute spokesman Craig Lambinon told the Cape Times that after Lilienfeld's attack, witnesses saw six sharks in the area.