'I looked and it was this massive shark:' California surfer frees himself, gets 50 stitches

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A surfer suffered leg bites but survived a shark attack on California's Central Coast after kicking the massive fish away.

Nick Wapner, 19, was bitten on Tuesday morning while he was surfing with friends off Montana de Oro State Park. The area is about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Park Ranger Supervisor Robert Colligan said Wapner reported being attacked by a 15-foot great white shark that clamped down on his right ankle and then up to his left thigh.

Wapner said the shark came up from beneath him as he paddled into position for an incoming wave.

"All of a sudden, my feet just went straight up in the air and I just felt like this tremendous pressure around my ankles and my legs," Wapner told KCOY. "And I looked, and it was this massive shark."

He said the shark thrashed and bit down on his legs for about a second before he was able to kick hard and wrangle free. The shark turned and swam away.

Wapner said he screamed to his friends on shore: "I just got attacked by a shark!"

He paddled in and one of his friends drove him to the hospital, where he got 50 stitches before being discharged.

"I'm happy to be alive," he said. "I'm still in shock. I got off really lucky."

Wapner, a student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, said he believes the shark was biting out of curiosity and realized the object in its mouth wasn't the taste it was looking for.

As a longtime surfer who grew up in the Los Angeles area, Wapner said the possibility of a shark attack occasionally crossed his mind but it never seemed like a reality. He said he plans to continue surfing, adding that "it's such a big part of my life."

"I know I'll continue to surf," he said. "But I'll just take it one day at a time."

The Associated Press, KEYT-TV and KKFX-CD, which are part of the News-Press & Gazette family, and KCOY-TV, which is operated by VistaWest California, contributed to this story.