A Wild Ride on a Shark’s Back

Byline: Associated Press/ Jeff Barnard

A Wild Ride on a Shark’s Back

SEASIDE, Ore. (AP) — Surfer Doug Niblack was trying to catch another wave before going to work, when his longboard hit something hard as rock off the Oregon Coast — and he suddenly found himself standing on the back of a thrashing great white shark.

Looking down, he could see a dorsal fin in front of his feet as he stood on what he described as 10 feet of back — as wide as his surfboard and as black as his own neoprene wetsuit. A tail thrashed back and forth, and the water churned around him like a depth charge went off.

“It was pretty terrifying just seeing the shape emerge out of nothing, and just being under me,” he told the Associated Press Oct. 12. “And the fin coming out of the water: It was just like the movies.”

The several seconds Niblack spent on the back of the great white Oct. 10 off Seaside was a rare encounter, though not unprecedented, according to Ralph Collier, president of the Shark Research Committee in Canoga Park and director of the Global Shark Attack File in Princeton, N.J.

Collier said he spoke to a woman who was kayaking off Catalina Island in 2008, when a shark slammed her kayak from underneath and sent her flying into the air. She then landed on the back of the shark.

“At that point, the shark started to swim out to sea — so, she jumped off its back,” Collier said.

Coast Guard Lt. J.G. Zach Vojtech said officials do not officially log shark encounters, but he had learned about Niblack’s ordeal from an off-duty coastguardsman who was nearby when he was knocked from his board.

Jake Marks, the coastguardsman, said he never saw the shark, but he witnessed Niblack suddenly standing up with water churning around him. He said he joined Niblack in paddling as fast as he could for shore after seeing a large shape swimming off between them, just beneath the surface.

“I have no reason to doubt there was a shark out there,” Marks said. “With the damage to his board, the way he was yelling and trembling afterward — there is no other explanation for that.”

Niblack figures he was standing on the shark no more than three or four seconds, when the shark went out from beneath him. The dorsal fin caught his board and dragged him 3 or 4 feet by his ankle tether.

“I’m just screaming bloody murder,” Niblack said. “I’m just yelling, ‘Shark!’ I thought for sure I was gone.”

In six years of surfing, Niblack has seen sharks in the water, but never so close.

He was still shaky when he went to work that night but said he was better the next night. He has been waking up from vague dreams of sharks, however he is planning to go back out to surf. When he does, Niblack will take a waterproof video camera his roommate gave him. He also put a sticker on the bottom of his board to ward off sharks: a shark with a red circle and a slash over it.

“I’ll definitely go back out,” he said. “It’s just the surf sucks right now. I’ll wait till that gets better, then go back out.”

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