EUREKA, Calif. — It was a perfect day for surfing. Except for the shark.
Jay Scrivner, a 45-year-old college English teacher, was waiting for waves off the Northern California coast near his hometown of Eureka on Sunday morning after surfing for about two hours when a great white he estimated at about 8-to-9 feet long bit his thigh and board.
“Sometimes you have a feeling that the water is weird,” Scrivner told The Associated Press in a phone interview from his room at Eureka’s St. Joseph Hospital on Monday afternoon. “But everyone was just so happy. I was lying on my board, paddling around just waiting for a wave set.”
Scrivner regularly surfs at the spot near Humboldt Bay known as the Samoa Peninsula. He was aware that another surfer, Scott Stephens, survived a shark attack in the same area last year.
Scriver said that “out of nowhere” he saw the shark’s teeth and nose. After he was bitten, he took a swing at the great white and let out what a friend nearby described as a primordial yell.
“I couldn’t believe it happened,” Scrivner said. “When I turned away from the shark, I said, âDid I really get bit?’ Your mind doesn’t believe it.”
Scrivner said he did a quick inventory of his body parts and found everything was intact. A friend encouraged him to keep paddling toward the beach.
Once there, friends and fellow surfers applied pressure on the wound and tied a T-shirt to stop the bleeding.
“What’s strange about it was how amazing the morning was, how everyone was having a good time, and then the dichotomy,” he said.
Scrivner was alert and conscious on shore when rescue crews got to the scene around 8:45 a.m., Samoa Peninsula Fire District Chief Dale Unea said.
Scrivner, an English lecturer at College of the Redwoods who is married with two young children, said the bite wound on his left thigh did not sever an artery or damage any tendons. There was some muscle tissue damage that required about 30 stitches, but he was expected to fully recover.
He said he thinks he was spared from more damage by his old surf board, which is thicker than many modern boards.
“If you’re going to get bitten by a shark, I had the best scenario,” he said.
Scrivner said he will “definitely surf again,” but with trepidation, and said he’s already had an anxiety dream where something was tugging on his surfboard leash.
“There’s just a power in the ocean,” Scrivner said. “When you see a shark or get bitten by a shark, you’re just made critically aware of that power.”