Surviving a Great White Shark Attack

Shutterstock_89941513-1Great white shark. Photo: David Stephens/Shutterstock

On the morning of October 30, 2012, surfer Scott Stephens paddled out to a local break near Eureka, California, and was attacked by a great white shark. Here’s his story, with analysis of the attack by international shark attack expert George Burgess, as told to Joe Spring.

I’m 25 years old and I live in Samoa, California, which is just outside of Eureka. On October 30, I went down to the beach about 10:00 a.m. It’s only about 10 minutes from my house. It’s BLM land, so you can drive right out on the sand and park. It was just a beautiful morning—really calm offshore winds, a really high tide, and real clean, six-foot waves. I drove down to the beach and just watched for half an hour, figuring where I wanted to go out. There were about 20 guys in the water at a spot called Bunkers, which breaks just north of the jetty that is the harbor entrance to Humboldt Bay.

My buddy called me and said, “How do the waves look?”

I said, “How do you know I’m checking the surf right now?”

He said, “I know you too well. I’ll meet you out there.”

And so I went out.

I put on my new Xcel 5-4 wetsuit, which I had worn—maybe—a handful of times. I ran along the jetty and jumped in, letting the current take me out. I didn’t really have to paddle too much. It was about a quarter-mile to Bunkers. The wave breaks in pretty deep water about 500 yards from shore. It’s probably one of the furthest out spots that I surf. The waves just seem to funnel in through that channel and then break on the sandbar—A-frames that go right and left.

I went inside most of the guys out there because I’m a shorter guy and I ride a little bit shorter board. I sat where the waves were going to break right on me. I went both right and left, but toward the end, I just went left. I caught three in a row, and that put me further down the beach. I was separated from everyone else by about 150 yards. By that time there was about 10 people left. I had been surfing for more than an hour and a half.

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