Scott Yerby never saw the great white shark before it attacked him as he surfed off Clam Beach near Eureka, Calif.
"This thing jumped me — it had enough force to lift me right out of the water. It was on my leg, I could see my femur, there was blood in the water — I knew then it was pretty serious," says Yerby, who was 29 at the time of the August 1997 attack.
He hit the shark on the nose (the prescribed last-ditch defense, along with ripping at its gills), managed to get back on his board, and with his surfing buddy, paddled back to shore.
By the time an ambulance got him to the hospital, doctors said, he had lost almost half the blood in his body and was close to death.
As he recovered from his wounds in the hospital, many of Yerby's visitors asked him if he intended to go out and hunt down the shark that attacked him. "I said I had no reason to — he was in his element," says Yerby.
Yerby, a 29-year-old male Caucasian, was wearing a full black neoprene wetsuit and used a surfboard with a white underside and blue top.
Yerby reported that the sky was clear, the air warm, the sea calm, the tide had ebbed (-1 m) and the water was warmer and clearer than he was accustomed to at that location. Yerby and a companion, David Yun, paddled out over a channel to ca. 70 m from shore; they were ca. 50 m apart.
Between 1300–1330 Yerby left his board to discover the water depth (ca. 2 m), then returned to his board and sat upright upon it just beyond the surfline.
“there was a splashing sound as the shark struck his surfboard, left leg and hand, biting deeply into the leg. The shark came up out of the water, shaking the surfer violently for several seconds.
Yerby struck the shark’s head with his right hand, whereupon it released its grip and swam off.
The shark was not seen again.” Yerby, assisted by Yun, paddled to shore.
Upon arrival they were aided by two emergency medical technicians and a nurse who were picnicking on the beach. They administered first aid and then carried him to a nearby ambulance which transported Yerby to Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata.
Yerby was alert and not in shock upon arrival, whereupon he was treated for severe lacerations to the tendons and muscles of his left
hand and leg. He had lost ca. 5 pints of blood by the time he arrived at the hospital.
Teeth had penetrated his leg to the femur and tibia and the wounds were arranged in a large crescent.
Three shark tooth fragments were removed from his tibia and they, along with the measured intertooth distances, indicated that the attacker was an 4–5 m white shark (Yerby estimated the shark to be 3–4 m in length). The location of the attack, Moonstone Beach at the mouth of the Little River near Eureka, has now experienced four white shark attacks upon surfers.
Eureka Times Standard