San Mateo County

Surfer Bitten by Shark at Gray Whale State Beach

The surfer was transported to a local hospital but has since been released

NBC Universal, Inc.

A surfer was bitten by a shark on Gray Whale State Beach in San Mateo County Saturday, authorities confirm.

A 39-year-old man was bitten in the right thigh by an approximately 6 ft great white shark, leaving 10 lacerations.

“He was surfing. So, he was relatively close to the shore and he was out surfing and a great white just took one bite out of him and released him,” said Brian Ham, Cal Fire's Battalion Chief.

A surfer was bitten by a shark on Gray Whale State Beach in San Mateo County Saturday, authorities said. Christie Smith reports.

Good Samaritan Thomas Masotta told NBC Bay Area’s Sergio Quintana that he was fishing and was the only one there when the surfer limped across the beach calling for help.

Masotta recorded and shared video of emergency crews working to help the surfer on the beach.

“I had been fishing for about 15 minutes. When I heard a guy kind of over this shoulder just holler for me,” he said. “And I looked over at him, he was waving me and he just collapsed down to the ground.”

According to Masotta, he called 911 and then tried to help stop the bleeding.

“You know I looked at the guy and said, 'Help might be on its way. But let’s get you taken care of,” Masotta, added. “So, we used some of my fishing equipment and did like a tourniquet on his leg. He was bit up here like up here on his upper leg.”

Emergency crews got there within 10 minutes as Masotta nervously watched the whole time.

Masotta told NBC Bay Area that while he never got the surfer's name, he was impressed that even with such a bad shark bite and after losing lots of blood, the surfer was still pretty lucid.

“He was pretty alert. In fact, he was the one that said, 'do you have anything that I can use to tie around my leg?” he said.

Paramedics assisted with treatment and transported the man to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. He has since been released from the hospital.

People who came to the beach right after the attack were shocked to learn what happened.

“It’s fairly surprising to hear that we have been coming here for years since we were kids. Never once did we encounter something like that. But definitely keep our eyes alert,” said Merced resident Ruben Salazar.

NBC Bay Area’s Christie Smith spoke by phone with David Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center about the shark attack.

“The white sharks or sharks out there are not looking at people. They are not on the menu. We occasionally have shark incidents like we did today but it’s generally very rare,” he said.

“In the case of surfers, they probably can’t make out exactly what it was. They know there is something there but doesn’t have the same type of vibe that a seal does. It’s probably a lot of times where you see the bite and spit. Where the shark will bite the surfer and let it go. It’s probably more of an investigatory action," Ebert added.

Gray Whale State Beach was closed for the rest of Saturday, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office confirmed.

Ham added that Saturday’s attack was a reminder for people who visit the beach to be careful.

“There is going to be sharks in the ocean and all I have to suggest is to practice safety for individuals to know their limitations. Be aware that there is wildlife in the sea,” he said.

Contact Us