A surfer was attacked and dragged underwater by a 10-foot Great White shark along the Central California coast Sunday, authorities say. After being bitten on the hip, some quick thinking to apply a tourniquet to his leg using his surfboard leash cord and help from two doctors that happened to be on the beach likely saved his life.
The 50-year-old man was enjoying the waves with friends when the juvenile Great White shark grabbed him, CBS News reported Dec. 28. The attack occurred at 11:30 a.m. (PST) at Sand Spit Beach in Montana De Oro State Park, which is west of San Luis Obispo, according to Supervising State Park Ranger Robert Colligan. After being helped to shore by fellow surfers, witnesses said the man, who was later identified by witnesses as Kevin Swanson of Morro Bay, was helped by the doctors, who also called 911. He was then administered to by first responders from Cal Fire and transported to a local hospital.
“We’re really blessed that he was still able to get himself to shore,” Andrew Walsh, one of the surfers near the man at the time of the attack, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “I was a few feet behind him, and we grabbed him and got him … up on the sand, and very quickly these doctors were there, helping out and calling 911.”
Walsh said the attack was sudden, the Great White shark coming up from beneath Swanson. He labeled the incident “really radical.”
“It was really radical,” he said. “I was about 10 feet from him, and it was absolutely quiet. … (The shark) came straight up out of the depths and got him and took him under the water. That was the amazing part: this big giant side of the shark just curving up out of the water.”
Kevin Swanson was underwater for several moments. When he resurfaced, he yelled “shark attack” to warn his fellow surfers. He then began swimming toward shore with the aid of Walsh and some other surfers. Once there, Swanson quickly tied off his leg in an effort to staunch the bleeding with the leash cord from his surfboard.
Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Colligan said the wounds were non-life-threatening and Swanson remained calm throughout — but refused to look at his bitten leg. “It looked from the evidence that the board took the majority of damage,” he said, “but in the process the shark took a little bit from the right hip.”
Bite marks in the board indicated that the shark was a young Great White. Sand Spit Beach and Central California are well within their territorial range.
Ranger Colligan told the Tribune that the beach would not be closed because of the shark attack. The State Park will instead post notifications of the attack. Those notifications, which are mandated by the county’s coastal incident management plan, remain in place for five days unless another attack occurs, which starts the five-day clock ticking again.
Colligan said sharks are native to the area and are spotted several times a year, but insisted that attacks like the one on Kevin Swanson are rare. He noted that a woman swimming with seals was attacked and killed by a shark in 2003 about 10 miles south of the site of the most recent attack.
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “International Shark Attack File 2013 Worldwide Shark Attack Summary,” California recorded only one non-fatal shark attack for the entire year. In comparison, Florida recorded 23 shark attacks (without a single fatality) and Hawaii recorded 13 attacks, one of which was fatal.
The Global Shark Attack File reflects eight attacks in California for 2014 prior to the attack on Kevin Swanson. Of those, seven were unprovoked (a distinction used to qualify for the International Shark Attack File’s yearly summary). All of the attacks have been recorded since July.