Shark attack victim tells his survival story

- Joe Tanner has a story few can tell.

The Portland man who survived a brutal shark attack says his entire leg was in the shark's mouth.

He was bitten by a shark, believed to be a great white, along the Oregon coast.

Now, his right leg is riddled with stitches, from his thigh down to his ankle.

"I was off my board just resting on it like you would, like a high counter, and then all of a sudden something grabbed me from below," Tanner recalled.

He'd been surfing just north of Cannon Beach, on his second run of the day, when the shark pulled him underwater.

His mind started racing. "I'm like, no way, this is not happening. And then I thought I was going to die."

Suddenly, his survival instincts kicked in and he fought back, punching the shark in the gills under water until finally it let him go.

He had to paddle back to shore, his leg bleeding into the water.  "That was the scariest part," he said.  "Just feeling like you're being chased, leaving a trail, a trail of breadcrumbs."

He later learned the shark's mouth was 26 inches wide and the bite in his leg was six inches deep.

"I did see him get pulled under," said another beachgoer West Woodworth. "When he was getting back on his board i saw a fin do a really quick turn but then just go down."

As people on the beach ran to help, it was Tanner who helped too. 

He told them his blood type and how to tie a tourniquet.

As he was being flown to the hospital, he told medics to take him to Legacy Emanuel in Portland.

It's where he works as a critical care nurse.

"I remember getting to the trauma bay and two of my coworkers were on either side of me," he said.

After nine days in the hospital and three surgeries later, he's sharing his story in hopes of preventing future attacks.

He wants other surfers to remember, punch the shark's eye or scratch the gills.

Know your own blood type and keep a tourniquet kit with you.

If you surf on the Oregon coast, you might him there one day, back in the water, catching another wave.

"Surfing's a meditation for me, so I'll be back in, for sure."



Up Next:

  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories You May Be Interested In - Includes Advertiser Stories