Doug Niblack is a former skeptic. An avid surfer for six years, he used to joke around with his friends by saying, ”Sharks are only a myth.” But after finding himself surfing not on his 12-foot long board, he said, but instead on the back of a 4,000-pound Great White Shark, he is skeptical no more.
Niblack, 23, was out surfing with friends on Monday in Seaside, Ore., in a spot locals affectionately call “The Cove.” The ever-ambitious surfer spotted fresher waves further out and, of course, paddled out to ride the waves.
The next thing he knew, he was, as he recalled, three feet up in the air.
“The shark was underneath, and when I landed in the water I thought it hit rock,” Niblack told ABC News. “I couldn’t possibly imagine that it was something like that beneath.”
Akin to a scene in Jaws 3 (or was it 5? Who even keeps track anymore?), Niblack soon realized that it was no rock he was standing upon. As he saw the dorsal fin rise above the surface and noted the spiked tail cutting through the water, he thought the end was surely near.
“When I saw the fin come out of the water – the tail is probably the scariest thing - I felt it moving underneath me and remember feeling that it’s no way out,” Niblack said. “That’s the moment where I was making good with God.”
Niblack was only on the shark’s back for about three seconds, he said, before falling off. Still attached to his board by an ankle strap, Niblack was pulled by the thrashing shark for about five feet before the strap finally came loose.
An off-duty Coast Guard officer and fellow surfer, Jake Marks, 27, saw the surge in water and began paddling out to Niblack. But Niblack didn’t want the help. He yelled out to Marks and everyone else in the water to get out as quickly as they could.
“Since I thought I was gone, I didn’t want anyone coming with me,” Niblack said.
Marks told ABC News that he “heard the thrashing – no reason for anyone to act that way. … All this happened in about five or six seconds. We were paddling as hard as we possibly could.”
Niblack made it to the shore safely, even outstripping his would-be rescuer. With not a scratch on him, Niblack didn’t even go to the hospital.
Ralph Collier, president of the Shark Research Committee in Canoga Park, Calif., and director of the Global Shark Attack File in Princeton, N.J., said that an event like this is unexpected but not unprecedented.
“I’m surprised that we don’t have more events than we have,” Collier said.
He recalled a similar case off Catalina Island in California where a kayaker was airlifted out of her kayak and onto the back of a Great White. He said that encounters are just the byproduct of going into the ocean, especially at times where there’s low visibility.
“It’s their [sharks'] environment, it’s their home. We’re visitors,” said Collier.
Though mostly unscathed, Niblack admits to having dreams about the incident, though he still intends to continue surfing.
When he does go out, however, he will be prepared. He’ll be armed with a waterproof camera and a “No Shark” sticker affixed jokingly to his board to ward off any predators.
If nothing else, the attack has given Niblack a new respect for sharks and more.
“I’m pretty stoked on life,” he said, laughing.