A surfer has described the terrifying ordeal of how he fought off a great white shark by punching it in the face as its jaws latched onto its thigh off the coast of California.
Eric Steinley, 38, was surfing at Salmon Creek Beach near Bodega Bay on Sunday when the predator tore into his leg, dragging him underwater.
Steinley told ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday the ‘slow motion’ moment for him began when he felt the shark ‘clamp’ onto his leg three times and drag him under.
‘I was in a lot of pain and still thinking I’m going to lose my leg or die. I just felt this heavy thing pull on me and it was like a clamp right around my leg. And we went underwater together and it was slow motion,’ he told GMA.
Surfer Eric Steinway has described the terrifying ordeal of how he fought off a great white shark by punching it in the face as its jaws latched onto its thigh off the coast of California
While under the water, Steinley punched the animal in the face, grazing the back of his hand against the shark’s teeth, before the shark let him go. Steinley described his punch as ‘measly’ compared to the size of the shark, but it did the trick
The Department of Fish and Wildlife was able to confirm the shark was a Great White based on the DNA and bite marks it left on Steinley’s board (pictured). The surfers used the cords from their boards to swiftly tie a makeshift tourniquet onto his leg before another surfer – a doctor – grabbed a real one out of his medical kit he kept stashed in his car
While under the water, Steinley punched the animal in the face, grazing the back of his hand against the shark’s teeth, before the shark let him go.
Steinley described his punch as ‘measly’ compared to the size of the shark, but it did the trick.
When he came up for air, his friend Jared Davis, 25, was there to help him, a rare occurrence as Steinley usually surfs alone, according to the Press Democrat. The pair paddled five minutes to shore together ‘stroke for stroke.’
‘He goes: “You’re going to make it. Don’t look, don’t look at your leg. Let’s just keep going,” and then we paddled in together, and then a wave came and I gave it my all,’ Steinley told GMA.
Davis said that during the attack, he saw a fin emerge above the water before it dragged his friend under.
‘He was saying shark, he was saying help,’ he said. ‘When I looked like he had a red stripe on his wetsuit.’
After making it to shore, roughly a dozen other surfers pulled Steinley onto a longboard and used the cords from their surfboards to create a makeshift tourniquet, which paramedics said likely saved his leg.
Luckily, one of the surfers at the bay was a doctor and had a medical kit in his car, according to NBC Bay Area, allowing Steinley’s leg to be wrapped in a proper tourniquet.
‘That thing hurt,’ he told NBC Bay Area.
The group managed to carried him up the stairs to meet paramedics shortly after.
Steinley, who usually surfs alone, luckily had a friend Jared Davis there to help him when he came up for air. Davis paddled the 50 yards ‘stroke for stroke’ with Steinley until they reached the shore
Salmon Creek Beach is located near Bodega Bay in Northern California
Steinley was life-flighted to a Santa Rose hospital, according to the Press Democrat.
Following the attack, Steinley has undergone multiple surgeries on his leg to repair crushed and partially severed nerve and the teeth marks on his leg.
He is currently recovering at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, California.
Despite the horrific attack, Steinley still plans to hit the waves again.
‘I still want to be a part of the lifestyle,’ he told GMA, although he is unsure if his leg will heal properly.
‘Surfing is such a big part of my life and it really calms me down,’ he told the Press Democrat. ‘But I just don’t know if I’ll get that feeling anymore sitting out there.’
The surfers carried Steinley up the stairs on the longboard to meet paramedics, who showed up shortly after
Steinley (pictured) was then airlifted to Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa where he has undergone multiple surgeries to repair the damaged nerve and teeth mark in his leg
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the DNA and bite radius left on Steinley’s surfboard proved it was a great white shark approximately 10 feet long.
Great white sharks can be fairly large and if you should be bitten by one, it can be pretty severe,’ Dave Bader from the Department of Fish and Wildlife told GMA.
Although shark attacks are rare, it usually involve great whites, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. All 14 fatal shark attacks in California involved Great Whites.
There have only been 198 shark attacks in the state since recordkeeping began in the 1950s.
State park officials closed the beach following the attack until Tuesday morning, when it reopened at 9am.
Steinley’s third grade teacher and fellow surfer Mark Jensen started a GoFundMe to help pay for his medical bills. The fundraiser has collected almost $32,000 of it’s $50,000 goal.