Surfer Narrowly Escapes Great White Shark Attack Off California

Officials in California have warned people out of the water following an attack by a great white shark that left a surfer uninjured, but with a massive bite removed from her board.

The incident took place at Morro Strand State Beach, just north of Morro Bay, according to Yahoo News. Elinor Dempsey, 54, was surfing around 10 a.m. when she noticed a great white shark swimming under her board. The predator bit into the surfboard, ripping a 14-inch-wide piece from it. Dempsey pushed the board at the white shark as she jumped off it to escape, tumbling into the water as nearby witnesses warned other surfers out of the ocean.

Other surfers helped Dempsey back onto her board after the attack, and she was able to make it to shore unaided. According to KSBY, an official with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services was at a nearby beach around the time that Dempsey encountered the shark, and he examined her board once it was back ashore. According to his observations, the shark, which bit into Dempsey’s surfboard, wasn’t fully grown, instead qualifying as a sub-adult, likely around six-feet-long. He added that the bite was likely investigative in nature, as juvenile sharks of that size are still in a stage of their development where they are discerning what is and isn’t food.

Juvenile white sharks have become a notable presence off the California coast this year, in some cases approaching shore more closely than usual. Typically posing little to no danger for surfers due to their relatively small size, the sharks have been filmed numerous times along the coast, particularly by paddleboarders, who are able to approach them closely. One locale has even employed a drone in order to search the ocean for the white sharks, providing an early warning for surfers and beachgoers.

Following Dempsey’s encounter with the young great white shark, officials closed the beach for 72 hours, posting warning signs nearby as a precaution. Though she emerged from the incident unscathed, Dempsey admitted that her close call with the great white shark had shaken her, and that she will likely remain closer to the shoreline in the future.

[Photo by Ryan Pierse / Getty Images]