Update: Two surgeries later, Eric Steinley is "still in disbelief that I'm alive" after coming face to face with a great white shark. The surfer says he was dragged underwater Sunday at California's Salmon Creek Beach when a great white confirmed to be at least 10 feet long bit down on his left leg. So he punched it. "It was such a measly punch compared to how big this creature was," the 38-year-old tells ABC News. But the shark loosened its grip, allowing Steinley to surface and call for help. Fellow surfer Jared Davis helped him reach shore, where onlookers applied a makeshift tourniquet and used a long board to move him to the parking lot. That "really helped to save his leg," a first responder tells ABC. Our original story from Monday follows:
A surfer was critically injured in a rare shark attack in California on Sunday. The man in his 30s was out with a group at a beach near the mouth of Salmon Creek, just north of Bodega Bay, around 9am when he was bitten on his left thigh, per the San Francisco Chronicle. A witness tells KPIX that he heard the man yell "Shark!" and "Help!" "I saw the dorsal fin of the shark, and then I saw the tail fin of the shark ... going down into the water," the witness says. "It definitely wasn't a quick attack. It was nice and slow." Fellow surfers had taken the man to the beach parking lot and applied a tourniquet made of surfboard leashes by the time emergency responders arrived.
A volunteer firefighter says the tourniquet was applied within 10 minutes of the bite, which reportedly damaged an artery, and the man was "conscious and alert" when he was airlifted from the scene, per the San Jose Mercury News. "CHP H-32 is en route to Santa Rosa Memorial with a trauma patient who was reported to have been bitten by a shark," the California Highway Patrol's Golden Gate Division's Air Operations unit said in a statement, describing the victim as "critically injured." It later shared an update, saying "the surfer is stable and will survive although the injuries are severe."
The victim said it was "a pretty large shark" and "he had a struggle with it," a paramedic tells KPIX, which shares footage of deep teeth marks in the victim's surfboard. It's unclear what species of shark was involved. But of 198 shark incidents in California since 1950, at least 176 have involved great white sharks, including the 14 fatalities. Still, a 2015 study determined a surfer's risk of being attacked by a great white shark off California was 1 in 17 million, per the Mercury News. (Read more shark attack stories.)