It reportedly wasn’t even a very good punch.
A California surfer managed to fend off a great white attack this weekend by socking the shark in the face. Resorting to fisticuffs worked surprisingly well, and the shark left the surfer alone after his “measly” thwack, although not before inflicting severe damage to his leg.
Eric Steinley, 38, was sitting on his surfboard in Bodega Bay, California, this Sunday morning when he felt something bite onto his leg and drag him beneath the waves.
“The feeling was very heavy, like swimming with a bag of bricks on you,” Steinley told Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat newspaper in a phone interview from his bed at the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit.
Reaching down with his right hand, he touched the predator’s “massive face” and then “I grabbed it in the eye, not so much aggressively, just trying to figure out what it was.”
Once he put together that he was experiencing a rare shark attack, he began to fight back, punching the shark in its face and cutting his hand on its teeth in the process.
“[It] was such a measly punch compared to how big this creature was,” he told ABC News, “you can see just from grazing its teeth, I cut my hand.”
In that moment, he believed he would die.
“I started to see spots and then I know, you know, [thought] I’m definitely I’m not going to make it,” he said.
Miraculously, though, he was able to break free and immediately swam to the surface to warn his fellow surfers.
“He was saying, ‘shark,’ he was saying ‘out,’ he was saying ‘help,’” Jared Davis, who was surfing not far from Steinely, recalled to ABC. He helped the injured Steinley paddle to shore, where the other surfers created a makeshift tourniquet out of surfboard leashes for his bitten leg while another surfer jogged up a cliff to his car and rang 911.
While Steinley is grateful to be alive, the shark severed and partially crushed a nerve in his leg as a result of the attack, and on Tuesday, he underwent the first of what will likely be many operations on it. A GoFundMe has been started to help raise recovery funds for him.
He plans to surf again, although he’s unsure if it’ll ever be the same.
“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. I’ll go out again in the future and see if it’s still there.”