In July 1991, Eric Larsen was surfing in the waters off Davenport, California, near Santa Cruz, when he was bitten several times by what was estimated to be a 16-foot-long great white shark. The shark dragged Larsen underwater when it became entangled in the leash of his surfboard. Larsen managed to swim to the surface and paddle to shore, despite substantial bites to both arms and one leg.
Fortunately, the then-32-year-old was spotted on the beach and quickly received medical attention from volunteer firefighters and paramedics. He was airlifted to the nearest hospital. Larsen endured five hours of surgery, a week in the hospital, and months of physical therapy, but he recovered and has almost no long-lasting physical impairments from the attack. While the Californian still enjoys the ocean, his true passion is flying. Larsen is now a full-time student, training to become an airplane mechanic.
Despite his encounter, Larsen advocates for shark protections as part of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation program.