A Californian man in his 50s was bitten by a great white shark on Sunday morning near San Luis Obispo, but he managed to paddle back to shore and escaped without life-threatening injury. He was surfing with a group of friends off of Sand Spit Beach in Montaña de Oro State Park at the time of the attack. The identity of the man has not been officially confirmed, but witnesses at the scene identified him as Kevin Swanson of Morro Bay.
The shark responsible is thought to have been an 8 to 10 feet-long juvenile great white, judging by the size and shape of the bite-marks on the man’s surfboard, shown above. According to Robert Colligan, the Supervising State Park Ranger, the shark rose up from beneath the man and bit his right hip.
The man alerted the others surfers in the water and was able to make his way back to the beach, where he was treated by medics before being airlifted to a local hospital for further treatment. “It looked from the evidence that the board took the majority of damage but in the process the shark took a little bit from the [man’s] right hip,” said Colligan.
Of the twelve other surfers in the water at the time, all reached the shore unharmed. One of them was Andrew Walsh, who witnessed the attack. “It’s pretty 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.”
The last shark attack in the surrounding area occurred in 2003, said Colligan, near Avila beach, about 10 miles to the south. Generally speaking the shark population is more concentrated further north where the water is colder, but sightings in the area are by no means uncommon. This August a fisherman spotted a shark estimated to be 18 feet-long at the mouth of the Morro Bay harbour, and there had been three further sightings in San Luis Obispo County in the preceding month alone.
Sand Spit Beach is due to remain open, although signs will be put up to inform the public of the recent attack.