‘This thing was huge’: Northern California surfer recalls shark attack

A Northern California man who survived a shark attack Sunday said he was grateful for the people who pulled him out of the water off North Salmon Creek Beach.

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Eric Steinley, 38, said he felt the great white shark grab his leg and drag him underwater while he sat on his surfboard.

“The feeling was very heavy, like swimming with a bag of bricks on you,” Steinley said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his hospital bed with the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa. “I reached down with my right hand and touched its massive face. Then I grabbed it in the eye, not so much aggressively, just trying to figure out what it was.”

Steinley realized he was being attacked and struck the animal again.

“I hit him in the nose, the nose, this thing was huge,” Steinley told KPIX. “He let me go and I remember swimming up and I got up on my board and I think he went for the board one more time because he hit me twice.”

The attack occurred at about 9 a.m. PDT just north of Bodega Bay, the East Bay Times reported.

>> Surfer in Northern California hospitalized after shark bite

Steinley said he called out for help and started to paddle toward the shore, the Press Democrat reported.

Jared Davis, another surfer who witnessed the attack, told ABC News he saw “the tail fin of a shark.”

Steinley estimated he was 50 yards from the beach, but paddling to the shore “felt like ages.”

“He asked me, ‘How does it look?’” Davis told the Press Democrat. “I said, ‘It looks OK. Don’t look back.’ And then I told him, ‘It’s going to be OK.’”

The surfers were aided by a wave that crashed behind them and pushed them quickly toward the shore.

Davis detached the leash from his surfboard and looped the cord around Steinley’s leg, using it as a tourniquet, the newspaper reported.

Steinley was airlifted to an area hospital, where he underwent a pair of surgeries, KPIX reported.

The surfer knows he has a long road ahead.

“I don’t know if I’ll physically be able to surf,” he told the television station. “I’m not sure if I can even walk.”

Still, Steinley said he was grateful to be alive and thanked the surfers, lifeguards, paramedics and doctors who helped him.

“I want to make sure everyone knows how thankful I am,” Steinley told the Press Democrat. “It was amazing to see all these guys in wetsuits marching me up the hill.”

Doctors told Steinley that a nerve in his leg was severed and partially crushed during the attack, the newspaper reported.

Steinley said a DNA sample from his bite wound confirmed the shark was a great white, KPIX reported.

“This time of the year is when great white sharks come here to feed. So, the sea lions and the harbor seals they give birth during the summer, their pups start to grow,” Luiz Rocha, a biologist with the California Academy of Sciences, told the television station, adding that great white shark attacks are rare.

“It’s much more likely for a surfer to get hit by a car going to the beach than it is for a surfer to get bit by a shark,” Rocha told KPIX.