MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — A swimmer who was attacked by a shark near the Manhattan Beach Pier in California on Saturday described the incident as terrifying, saying “I felt the shark biting into me and I thought this is it.”
Steven Robles was out for a swim with about a dozen friends several hundred yards from shore when the attack occurred about 9:30 a.m.
“I saw it come real close to me and then it turned and lunged right at my chest,” Robles told CNN on Sunday. “I was in complete panic. I felt the shark biting into me and I thought this is it. Oh, my God, I’m going to die.”
He said he grabbed and punched the 7-foot juvenile great white shark’s nose and it swam away.
“I thought, I’m going to get this thing off me, and I grabbed his nose,” Robles said. “I was fortunate the shark bit into fat tissue and did not go into my organs.”
Robles suffered a single bite wound on the right side of his rib cage and was helped to shore by some surfers. He was taken to Harbor UCLA Medical Center for treatment.
“I still feel pretty shaken up,” he said. “It was pretty scary out there.”
Witnesses told authorities that 45 minutes earlier the shark bit a baited hook at the end of a fishing line thrown by a fisherman from the edge of the pier and was thrashing around in the water when it bit the swimmer.
“He was trying to get off the line,” said Capt. Tracy Lizotte, a Los Angeles County lifeguard at the beach. “He was agitated and was probably biting everything in his way, and then the swimmer swam right into the shark’s line.”
Lizotte said it’s not uncommon for sharks to swim in waters past the pier’s edge.
“That’s where they live,” Lizotte said. “It’s their home.”
Great white shark sightings are on the rise at some Southern California beaches, especially in the waters off Manhattan Beach, a popular spot for surfers and paddle-boarders.
Last month, local photographer Bo Bridges used a drone to film a great white shark swimming close to paddle-boarders in Manhattan Beach. He spotted the shark about 100 feet off the coast while he and his friends were paddle-boarding.
In December, a paddle-boarder shot video of three great whites between 8 and 10 feet long, circling underneath his board. Evidence of other close encounters has been posted to YouTube recently, showing the glistening predators moving around in the waters near the shore.
Many of the sharks are juveniles learning to feed and fend for themselves, said Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor at Cal State Long Beach. Researchers are still trying to figure out why Manhattan Beach is so popular for the predators.
There have been 13 shark-attack fatalities in California waters since 1950.
The most recent came in October 2012, when a great white about 15 feet long attacked Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. as he was surfing off a beach in Santa Barbara County. Solorio, 39, suffered a torso wound and died shortly after he was brought ashore.
In 2010, 19-year-old Lucas Ransom was pulled into the water by what experts believe was a great white shark as he body-boarded on Surf Beach in Santa Barbara County. His leg was torn off, and the UC Santa Barbara student died from his injuries before reaching shore.
In 2008, Dave Martin, a 66-year-old triathlete, was swimming off Solana Beach near San Diego when he was attacked and killed by what experts said was a great white shark at least 12 feet long.