Track snow and rain with Q13 News Interactive Radar

Oregon surfer says shark had his whole leg in its mouth; he punched its gills to get free

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon surfer who was attacked by a shark earlier this month says the huge animal felt like “grainy sand paper” as he struggled to free his leg from its mouth.

Joseph Tanner said at a news conference Wednesday that his entire leg was in the shark’s mouth and he punched its gills to get free.

The 29-year-old was attacked while surfing Oct. 10 near Cannon Beach off the Oregon coast by what experts say was likely a great white shark.

Tanner spent nine days in the hospital and had three surgeries on his leg.


The front of Joe Tanner’s leg. (Photo courtesy of KPTV/Portland)

Tanner, a trauma nurse, swam to shore after the attack and instructed others how to tie a tourniquet around his mangled leg.

The back of Joe Tanner's shark-bitten leg. (Photo courtesy of KPTV/Portland)

The back of Joe Tanner’s shark-bitten leg.
(Photo courtesy of KPTV/Portland)

According to KPTV in Portland, Tanner said at the news conference: “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. My whole leg was in its mouth.”

The shark then pulled him underwater,  he told reporters.

“I’m like, no way, this is not happening. And then I thought I was going to die.”

Tanner said he punched the shark in its gills until it let him go. Then, he had to swim back to shore.

“That was the scariest part, just feeling like you’re being chased, leaving a trail – a trail of breadcrumbs,” he said, referring to his bleeding leg.