A long-distance swimmer was injured in a shark attack on Saturday off California’s Manhattan Beach after the man swam into the vicinity of a hooked great white. According to KTLA 5, 50-year-old Steven Robles was swimming with friends near the beach pier when the shark chomped down on the right side of his abdomen. The attack happened as a number of anglers were attempting to release the fish from their line. Officials later closed down the beach and were able to guide the shark back into the ocean.
“I’m still pretty shaken up. I’m still rattled, my nerves are still shaky,” Robles told KCAL 9 from his home, where he is now recovering.
Robles was fortunate that the shark that attacked him was a seven-foot juvenile. Young great white sharks have a much less lethal bite than adults and are generally not known to attack large prey until they grow older. Still, Robles bears the distinct bite mark of a great white on his torso and says that another bite nicked an artery in his right hand. Had the shark been more aggressive, Robles may not have survived the encounter.
“The shark came right up to me, bit right into my torso area. He penetrated the first layer of my skin and into my fat tissue,” Robles said. “And somehow I had enough sense to grab his nose with my right hand and pry him off my body.”
You can view an interview with Robles below:
The veteran swimmer was training for an event in Hawaii with 14 members of his swimming group when the incident occurred. Several came to his aid in the aftermath of the attack and helped him onto a surfboard, which was then quickly taken to shore. Robles said he doesn’t blame the shark for the attack, but did criticize the anglers for bringing a great white so close to a busy beach.
The anglers said that they mistook the great white for a bat ray until it was too late. One of the fishermen, identified only as Jason, told the Los Angeles Times that they attempted to warn swimmers away from the area, but Robles was too far out to hear them.
“We weren’t going to cut the line with the shark that close to swimmers,” Jason said. “Our main concern was taking the shark further out to sea before cutting the line—turning his head and pulling him out to sea.”
That was when the agitated shark swam straight into Robles.
The anglers refuted the claims that they were throwing chum into the water, but are receiving widespread criticism after a leaked video showed some of the fishermen laughing shortly before the attack. Jason tells the Los Angeles Times that they found the situation amusing because juvenile sharks were generally considered harmless. The mood dramatically changed once the anglers found out that someone may have been injured.
Authorities said there were no plans to cite or charge the anglers, but have closed fishing at the pier.