Surfer Escapes After Shark Chomps Board

Close call for 54-year-old Californian Elinor Dempsey
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 30, 2015 8:37 AM CDT
Surfer Escapes After Shark Chomps Board
Elinor Dempsey, 54, shows her surfboard, which a shark bit earlier Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 while she was in Morro Bay.   (of San Luis Obispo) via AP)

A surfer escaped injury yesterday after a great white shark bit her board off California's central coast. Elinor Dempsey, 54, of Los Osos, California, said she was surfing at Morro Strand State Beach, just north of Morro Bay, around 10am when a shark swam under her board and chomped on it, leaving an approximately 14-inch wide bite mark. Dempsey pushed her board toward the shark as she jumped off. Other surfers who saw the attack warned everyone else to get out of the water. Some of the surfers helped Dempsey reunite with her board, and she got back on it to get to shore. "First I thought it was a dolphin and I thought, ‘What the hell is he doing?' " she tells the San Luis Obispo Tribune. "And he kind of landed on my board. Then I realized he had taken a chunk. And I was, like, that’s not what dolphins do."

Officials closed the beach for 72 hours and posted warning signs at nearby beaches, said the beach's supervising ranger, Lisa Remington. Experts will analyze the bite mark and teeth pattern to determine the size of the shark. A US Fish and Wildlife biologist who happened to be in the area and examined the board estimated that the shark was a 6-foot adult male, though another expert said it could be as big as 15 feet. Dempsey told the Tribune that she was shaken by her close encounter with the shark and might take a break from surfing. "I'll be staying close in from now on," she said. "I'll probably be on my boogie board for a little while." As for that board? "I might sell it to the highest bidder," she jokes. (More surfers stories.)

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