19-Year Old Surfer Attacked by Great White Shark off California Coast on Tuesday

SwellBrains | | SurfSurf
shark, california
Thankfully, the shark didn’t find him and his board too tasty… Credit: @stillfrothy

Nineteen-year-old surfer Nick Wapner was attacked by a shark at Sandspit Beach in Montana de Oro State Park near Los Osos, California on Tuesday, January 8th reports The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Thankfully, the attack was not fatal, but Wapner received 50 stitches near his ankle for the bite.

Wapner, who has surfed since he was 4 years old, had met up with some fellow surfers to ride the waves. At about 10 am after about an hour in the ocean, Wapner told the Tribune, a great white shark came up from beneath him as he paddled into position for an incoming set. He didn’t even see a splash.

“It all happened quickly, but I turned and saw that it had one of my legs in its mouth,” Wapner said.

The shark bit down on the lower part of his legs around his ankles, and then up to his thighs. In a skirmish that he estimates lasted a few seconds — though his mind was racing and it’s hard to say exactly — Wapner kicked the shark hard in the head and wrangled himself free.

shark, california
Nick estimates the shark was a 15-footer… Credit: Social Media

The experienced surfer said he didn’t feel any pain initially as adrenaline shot through his body. After releasing him, the shark turned in a flash, leaving Wapner with a lasting, haunting image of its entire torso — giant head, massive jaws, and beady eyes — as it returned to the depths.

“The thing was huge,” Wapner said.

He estimated the predator to be 15 feet in length, with an 18-inch dorsal fin. Wapner believes the shark was biting out of curiosity and realized the object in its mouth wasn’t the taste it was looking for.

Wapner and his friend both have lifeguard training, and determined no major arteries were damaged despite multiple cuts on his legs, some deep; he was conscious as one of his friends drove him to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. He received 50 stitches before being discharged in the afternoon.

shark, california
19-year old Nick Wapner. Credit: David Middlecamp

The 19-year-old grew up in Palos Verdes and regularly surfed at L.A.-area beaches, also serving as an ocean lifeguard at Huntington State Beach. The thought of a shark attack sometimes would cross his mind, as it does most surfers and ocean swimmers, but he’d dismiss the notion fairly quickly.

“It’s such a low-probability event, that it never really seemed like it could be a reality,” Wapner said. “I’m happy to be alive,” he added.

Doctors told him it would take a couple of weeks until he could go back in the water, but it will likely be at least six months until he gets back to normal after sustaining some ligament damage from the bite. For now, he’ll take it easy.

“I know I’ll continue to surf,” he said. “But I’ll just take it one day at a time.”


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