PORTLAND, Ore. — Joseph Tanner was resting his arms on his surf board, his lower body dangling in the water, when something grabbed his right leg and yanked him under the waves.

In an instant, Tanner knew he was being attacked by a shark in the chilly waters off the northern Oregon coast and he wondered if he would die, he recalled Wednesday, nearly three weeks after the Oct. 10 attack.

The shark had his leg in its jaw – a bite that would measure 26 inches from his upper thigh to his ankle – and as Tanner struggled to break free, he remembered that he should try to punch the shark in the nose or poke its eye.

“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,” he said.

The shark released him and he screamed a warning to his friends, then began paddling to shore on his board. He was terrified the shark was following him, tracking him by the blood streaming from his mangled leg.

Friends later told him he paddled about 200 yards – a five-minute ordeal – before catching a wave and riding it in for the last 40 yards, he said.

“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,” Tanner said. “I just rolled off my board in six inches of water and people came from all over.”

Tanner, a critical care nurse at an intensive care unit, began telling his rescuers what to do. He directed them to make a tourniquet from a T-shirt and told them to cut off his wetsuit so paramedics could start an IV when they arrived.