A long-distance swimmer said in the two seconds before a great white sank its teeth into his body, he "saw the eyes of the shark" as it bore down on him in the waters off one of Southern California's most popular beaches.
Steve Robles said he went into shock when he "felt the teeth clamping on to my thigh and ribs," but managed to get free of the 7-foot shark's jaws during the attack Saturday morning.
Robles suffered several puncture wounds. The shark was fighting to free itself from a fisherman's line near Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles, said fire rescue officials.
"It was a burning pain that was going down the side of my chest," Robles told ABC station KABC.
Robles was out for a two-mile swim with a group of friends when the shark suddenly appeared.
"It came from the bottom of the water. It came up to the surface, it looked at me and attacked me right on the side of my chest," Robles said. "That all happened within two seconds. I saw the eyes of the shark as I was seeing it swim towards me. It lunged at my chest, and it locked into my chest."
Robles said he grabbed the shark by the nose and pried its mouth open. The shark then disappeared, eventually breaking free from the line. Lifeguards were unable to find it.
Nearby surfers helped Robles to shore.
"I was pretty much in shock and screaming the whole time," he said. "I was scared. More than anything, I was just terrified."
Robles was rushed to the hospital, where he's recovering.
"This was such a freak accident," he said. "I couldn't believe that it happened."
"We do see the sharks. They're here, and they've been around," said Scott Valor, who witnessed the attack. "There's never been a bite."
California State Long Beach professor Chris Lowe said there has been an increase in the number of great whites in local waters. He said sharks typically avoid areas that are heavily populated.
"Those are good places to swim," he said.
Fishing is prohibited from the Manhattan Beach Pier until Tuesday.