Two years following a brutal shark attack in Montaña de Oro, Nick Wapner, 21, a surfer and Cal Poly student, still pushes himself on a surfboard and has immense love for the ocean.
In January, 2019, Wapner and a few friends drove out to Los Osos for a surf session. After undergoing surgery in October for an elbow injury, Wapner was ready to get back out in the water again.
After surfing for a while, the tide started to rise, making the beach break deeper. Due to the shift in the tide, the waves started to get wonky and his friends all got out of the water. Wapner, however, paddled south in hopes of finding some better surf.
“The water was super blue, crystal clear, and it was freezing.” Wapner said. “I just decided to get one more wave.”
He explained thinking about sharks for a brief moment as he floated alone on the surface of the still deep blue. Seconds after the thought, Wapner was launched upwards off his board, his body contorted like a scorpion.
“This thing was huge, literally as long as my car,” Wapner said.
Chest pounding, with only adrenaline keeping him going, he turned and gave a swift kick to the head of the great white. Luckily, with his board still intact, he frantically began paddling towards the shore. Wapner scraped into a set wave, shot down the face, and was spat out onto the sand.
His friends were on the beach and he was rushed to the emergency room at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he received 65 stitches and a load of pain pills.
“With all of the adrenaline I had going I didn’t really feel much until I got to the hospital,” Wapner said. “Then it really started to hit me.”
Wapner discovered later that due to the bite and tooth size, the great white was estimated to be an astounding 15-20 feet in length.
“Going through something like that definitely affects you,” Wapner said. “I think about it all of the time in the water.”
Wapner shared how even though the attack was extremely traumatic, there is not a chance it will stop him from being in the ocean and doing what he loves. He still surfs everyday, including frequently paddling out at the exact spot he got munched on that day over two years ago in January.