Surfer Recounts Pacific Northwest Great White Shark Attack

Great white sharks may be most commonly associated with South Africa, Guadalupe Island, and Cape Cod, but a surfer from the Pacific Northwest ran afoul of one of the predators off the Oregon coast earlier this month, and he is now recounting his harrowing brush with one of the ocean’s most imposing inhabitants.

Joseph Tanner was resting on his surfboard on October 10, according to the CBC, when he was pulled underwater by something that grabbed his right leg. Instantly, Tanner knew he was being attacked by a shark, leading him to wonder whether he would survive the unexpected and dramatic experience.

Submerged by the white shark, Tanner recalled that he should strike out at the animal, hitting it in either the nose or the eye. Unable to reach either, however, the 29-year-old surfer resorted to attacking the shark’s gills, desperately trying to get the predator to release him, as Oregon Live recounts.

“I opened my eyes and there were gills in front of me. I can’t reach the nose and I can’t reach the eyeballs, so I just started hitting the gills.”

Tanner’s efforts proved successful, and the shark released him. Screaming a warning to his friends, who were just 12 meters away in the surf, he began frantically making his way to shore, all the while terrified that the predator was following him, and the blood that freely flowed from his injured leg.

For five minutes, Tanner struggled to make his way to shore, an ordeal that took him across 180 meters of open water, constantly possessed of the fear that the shark would return.

“I just paddled my life away. That was probably the scariest moment, trying to get back to the shore and leaving a trail of blood.”

In the last 35 meters, Tanner was able to catch a wave that carried him to shore. Unable to lift his arms, he rolled off his board in six inches of water and immediately found himself surrounded by people. As a critical care nurse at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital’s intensive care unit, Tanner quickly began directing his would-be rescuers, instructing them to make a tourniquet from a shirt. When that proved ineffective, he told them to take the leash from his surfboard to replace it.

As beachgoers waited for help to arrive, Tanner directed them to call an ambulance and provided his blood type in order to streamline the process. He instructed his rescuers to cut off his wetsuit, as he believed paramedics would need to start an IV upon their arrival. His surfboard was used by those same rescuers as a bodyboard, as six of them carried Tanner from the water to the parking lot above the beach where he came ashore. Even though shock set in, Tanner was able to instruct the paramedics to airlift him to Legacy Emmanuel, where he is well acquainted with the trauma staff.

Despite the fact that he required three surgeries, the shark missed Tanner’s most vital organs. Even he did not get a good look at the shark that attacked him, but after examining the bite mark on his leg, doctors were able to determine that it was most likely a great white that was responsible for the incident.

Advocating for surfers to know their blood type, Tanner also noted that thick wetsuits can make all the difference in a shark attack. Wearing one of the thickest suits on the market during is recent ordeal, Tanner pointed to that as a factor that may have allowed him to survive his unexpected run-in with one of Oregon’s great white sharks.

[Featured Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]