A North Bay man found himself in a life or death struggle after he was attacked by a shark over the weekend.
Eric Steinley spoke to NBC Bay Area from his ICU bed at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
The surfer recalled what happened Sunday morning as he was waiting to catch another wave at Salmon Creek Beach in Bodega Bay.
“All of a sudden just this clamp. Not that fast, but this heavy, heavy clamp on my leg. I looked down and all of a sudden we were going down,” Steinley said.
Steinley realized it was a shark that was dragging him under.
“I hit him in the nose, the nose, this thing was huge,” he said.
Adrenaline in his veins, Steinley went for another strike to the shark’s head.
“He let me go and I remember swimming up and I got up on my board and I think he went for the board one more time because he hit me twice,” he said. Steinley called out for help and started to paddle towards the shore.
“I look back at my leg and I’m like ‘I’m gonna lose my leg,’” he told NBC Bay Area.
Surfers and Good Samaritans raced to help him get out of the water and apply pressure to his wound. In a stroke of luck, one of those beach visitors happened to be a doctor who had a medical kit in his car.
“They put a full tourniquet on me and that thing hurt,” Steinley said.
One airlift to the hospital and two surgeries later, Steinley is grateful for the surfing community, who’ve set up a Go Fund Me page to help pay for medical costs. “I don’t know if I’ll physically be able to surf. I’m not sure if I can even walk,” he said.
Steinley said a DNA sample from his bite wound confirmed the culprit was a great white shark.
“This time of the year is when great white sharks come here to feed. So, the sea lions and the harbor seals they give birth during the summer, their pups start to grow,” said Luiz Rocha, a biologist with the California Academy of Sciences.
But Rocha added that great white shark attacks in California are so rare, one or two attacks may happen each year.
“It’s much more likely for a surfer to get hit by a car going to the beach than it is for a surfer to get bit by a shark,” he said.