December 29, 2014 / 6:53 PM / 3 years ago

California surfer survives great white shark attack

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 50-year-old shark attack victim was listed in good condition on Monday, recovering in a Central California hospital after he was bitten in the leg and dragged underwater by a great white while surfing over the weekend.

Kevin Swanson was in the water at Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay Sunday morning when a juvenile great white shark measuring 8 to 10 feet in length swam up from under him and took a bite out of his surfboard, chomping into his right leg and thigh.

“It was really radical,” fellow surfer Andrew Walsh, who was with Swanson in the water, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Walsh said he was about 10 feet away from Swanson and that all was calm before the shark suddenly appeared.

It "came straight up out of the depths and got him and took him under the water," Walsh recalled. "That was the amazing part. This big giant side of the shark just curving up out of the water.”

Swanson disappeared beneath the surface for several seconds, then surfaced with his board and was able to paddle to shore, where he fastened his leash cord as a tourniquet around his own bloodied leg, Walsh told the newspaper.

An ambulance took Swanson to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in nearby San Luis Obispo.

“We've upgraded his condition to good condition," hospital spokesman Ron Yukelson said on Monday, adding that privacy laws prohibited him from further comment.

The beach was not closed but notices were posted telling visitors of the attack, state park ranger supervisor Robert Colligan said.

It was the latest in a string of shark encounters at California beaches in recent months.

In October, a surfer was attacked by an 8- to 10-foot shark, suffering non-lethal injures, about 30 miles north of Santa Barbara. Later that month, a woman was attacked by a 6-foot shark in her outrigger canoe near Santa Barbara but managed to escape unharmed and paddled safely back to shore.

Despite intense media attention generated by shark attacks on humans, such incidents are fairly rare along the U.S. Pacific Coast, with 154 unprovoked attacks authenticated off California since 1900, according to the Shark Research Committee.

Thirteen fatal shark attacks on people have been documented in California during the past 60 years. The two most recent occurred at Vandenberg's Surf Beach in October 2010 and October 2012, the group said.

Reporting by Michael Fleeman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Beech

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