19-year-old surfer gets 50 stitches after shark attacks him off California coast

PHOTO: Nick Wapner, a 19-year-old Cal Poly student from San Luis Obispo, Calif., was attacked by a great white shark at Montana de Oro State Park, Jan. 8, 2019. PlayDavid Middlecamp/San Luis Obispo Tribune/TNS via Getty Images
WATCH Surfer needs 50 stitches after shark attack

With chunks ripped out of his board and bandages on both of his legs, Nick Wapner described the harrowing moment he was attacked by a shark along California's central coast.

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Wapner, a 19-year-old surfer and student at California Polytechnic State University, was looking for his last wave at Sandspit Beach Tuesday in Montana de Oro State Park when he was bitten on his legs.

"I was just laying on my board and next thing you know I was, all of sudden, my feet just went straight up in the air and I just felt like this tremendous pressure around my ankles and my legs. ... Then I looked and it was a, this massive shark. I was just like 'Wow, OK. This is new,'" he told ABC News affiliate KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara.

"It was just like a weird pressure, like a split-second kind of thing, like I felt all this great pressure and then I like turned around and saw the head, the torso and the thing was just massive," Wapner said Wednesday from his home.

Coastal Cliffs In Montana De Oro State Park, Near Morro Bay, California in 2007. STOCK/Getty Images
Coastal Cliffs In Montana De Oro State Park, Near Morro Bay, California in 2007.

Wapner, a trained lifeguard, said he believed the shark was a 15-foot great white. He said the width of the shark's mouth was nearly 2.5 feet long. The shark bit through Wapner's wetsuit as well as his surfing shoes and took a piece out of his surfing board.

Luckily, he was able to free one of his legs and kick the shark on its head.

"Miraculously, it let me go. There was a wave right there and I was able to paddle straight into the wave, basically just belly-board all the way back to the beach. ... I just had so much adrenaline going and I ran over to my buddies that were already on the beach and was screaming out at them," he told KEYT-TV.

His friends took him to a hospital where he received 50 stitches.

Wapner called the incident "traumatic" but surprisingly said he was looking forward to his wounds healing and stitches being removed so he could get back into the water.

"There’s no way that I could not surf again. The ocean’s just played such a big role in my life. There’s just no way," he said. "The second I can surf again I’ll be back in the water.”

There were 50 shark attacks in the US in 2018, according to the International Shark Attack File.

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