Friday, October 14, 2011
Surfer recounts close encounter with shark After being knocked off his board, the man says he ended up standing on the great white’s back for a few seconds
BY JEFF BARNARD
The Associated Press
A surfer says he was knocked off his board by a shark off the Oregon Coast, and he ended up standing on the 10-to-12-foot great white for several seconds before it swam off.
The reported encounter happened Monday afternoon when Doug Niblack says he was surfing for a couple of hours at the Cove in Seaside. There were about a dozen other people who had been surfing in the area, but most of them went in when the waves started getting big. Niblack stayed with two others sitting on their boards about 50 yards from shore.
After paddling out about 20 yards beyond them, Niblack’s board hit something solid that felt like a rock, though he knew there were no rocks there. He kicked down with both feet, trying to stand up so he wouldn’t get thrashed by the next wave, and found himself standing knee-deep in water on the back of the shark.
“It was pretty terrifying just seeing the shape emerge out of nothing and just being under me,” he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “And the fin coming out of the water. It was just like the movies.”
Authorities usually do not officially log such encounters, but the Coast Guard expressed no reason to doubt the report, which officials said they first heard from an off-duty member who was near Niblack when he was knocked from his board.
Jake Marks, the Coast Guard member, said he never saw the shark but witnessed Niblack suddenly standing up, with water churning around him. Marks saw a large shape swimming off between them just beneath the surface, and joined Niblack in paddling as fast as they could for shore.
“I have no reason to doubt there was a shark out there,” Marks said. “With the damage to his board, the way he was yelling and trembling afterwards — there is no other explanation for that.”
Neither does Ralph Collier, president of the Shark Research Committee in Canoga Park, Calif., and director of the Global Shark Attack File in Princeton, N.J.
Collier has logged 59 unprovoked shark attacks on people on the West Coast since 2000, eight of them in Oregon. The last fatality was a boogie boarder in Vandenberg, Calif., in October 2010.
Niblack is not even the first case of a person standing on the back of a great white. Collier said he spoke to a woman who was kayaking off Catalina Island, Calif., in 2008.
In six years of surfing, Niblack, who grew up in Yelm, Wash., said he has seen sharks in the water, but never so close.
“When I put my hands down on it, it felt rubbery like Neoprene, like a wetsuit,” he said. “There was a moment there when everything was going on, I just kind of made my peace. I honestly thought I was going to die. Then paddling back in, I was praying the whole time. Like, ‘Don’t let it be following me.’ ”