Florida Teen Survives After Getting Bitten By Shark, Punching It In The Face

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In a heart-pumping encounter with a shark, a Florida teen has survived after getting bitten and then punching the creature right in the face. 17-year-old surfer and fisherman, Nick Wapner, from Encinitas, California, was out fishing for snapper with his father off the coast of Florida when the unimaginable happened.

As he pulled up a 30cm fish that he’d just caught, the teen was attacked by a shark that bit him in the left arm. “I just felt the gnarliest bite and I felt like I was getting tugged … and then I saw the shark underneath me,” described the young fisherman.

But Nick wasn’t willing to be the shark’s easy snack. He did what many would consider sheer madness – he punched the it right in the face. The Pacific Coast Academy student saw this as his only chance to have a fighting chance to get away from the beast. “I turned back around, I punched it in the face and the eye (with his right hand), and then it swam away,” he said.

The teen had to immediately paddle about 100m back to his dad’s boat, and it later emerged that he sustained a laceration in the roughly 30cm shark bite. “It was pretty deep. You could see muscle and bone,” he explained. His bleeding was quickly stemmed by his father who used a ripped piece of plastic from a tackle bag to make a makeshift tourniquet around his son’s arm.

The two were about 45 minutes away from the shore, hence the father-son duo were obliged to call the Coast Guard, who dispatched immediately. The rescue attempt ended up turning into a pretty exciting ride for Nick as he got lifted out of the water in a basket by a helicopter and airlifted to a hospital in Melbourne, Florida. All the while, he remained surprisingly relaxed and remarkably chipper, his father explained.

It took about 50 stitches and a couple of days in hospital before Nick was eventually discharged and was allowed to leave.

The teenage surfer explained that it was a pretty intense but a spur-of-the-moment decision to punch the shark, as he wasn’t sure of what the outcome of the attack would have been. “When I punched it, my whole hand went into its mouth,” he said.

Although shark attacks are rare, given the recent increase in human sightings in the open ocean close to shore, it’s important to remember what to do when one happens. Firstly, do not panic. Easier said than done but it’s important to remain calm and remember that most sharks attack when they’re provoked or feel threatened. Secondly, hit back. It’s important to be aware that sharks are more vulnerable to attacks where it hurts them the most, that’s in their faces, gills and eyes. Thirdly, swim away and exit the water immediately when you have the chance.

There’s no doubt that Nick’s survival was somewhat due to his response to the initial attack. His swift action in punching the shark and then swimming to his dad’s boat was a winning combination, and that’s certainly something to think about next time you’re out in the open water.

It’s incredible to note that Nick was able to remain so calm and collected even in the face of a shark attack but he’s hopeful that this experience can serve as a valuable lesson to others. “I’m going to try to be more aware when I’m in the water and might think twice before I drop a fishing line when I’m by myself,” he explained.

Nick is due to make a full physical recovery, and what’s more, he’ll have quite the tale to tell.