Oregon surfer attacked by great white shark is lucky to be alive: expert

An Oregon surfer who was attacked by a shark was likely bitten by a great white drawn to his motion in the water — and is lucky to be alive, an expert said.

Cole Herrington, 20, was surfing with two friends Sunday at a popular spot known as The Cove south of Seaside when he was bitten while dangling his legs off his board, The Oregonian reported.

The shark chomped into Herrington’s board as well as his lower left leg, taking him beneath the surface at one point before releasing, according to the newspaper.

The details and location of the attack indicate it was likely a great white shark that bit Herrington, who was “still in shock” Tuesday, his mother said.

“That fella has a lot to be thankful for,” A. Peter Klimley, an author of two books on sharks and a retired University of California professor, told The Oregonian. “If a shark really wanted to consume him, it could have.”

Cole Herrington's surfboard
Cole Herrington survived a shark attack while he was surfing off the Oregon coast
Courtesy City of Seaside

Instead, the apex predator was probably attracted to the movement of Herrington’s surfboard and released him upon realizing the aspiring electrician wasn’t a seal, Klimley said.

“If they don’t want to release something, they don’t have to,” Klimley continued. “This surfer was small and helpless in the mouth of the shark. The shark made a decision it didn’t want to eat him and let him go.”

Herrington’s mother, Amy Powell, said one of his wounds runs from his pinky toe to his heel, while a second is on his calf.

“What it looks like was the shark was letting go and scraped across [Herrington’s leg],” Powell said. “It looks like hamburger meat.”

Herrington was expected to have a second surgery Tuesday at a hospital in Portland, Powell said, adding that her son is also dealing with PTSD from the attack.

“I think he’s still in shock,” Powell said after flying into Portland from Alabama, adding that he hasn’t talked much about the incident.

“Cole said he didn’t even see the shark. All of a sudden, he was under the water. All of a sudden, the adrenaline kicked in. He doesn’t remember much of it.”

Shark attacks are rare in Oregon. Prior to Sunday, the most recent report of a shark attack occurred in 2016 off Indian Beach at Ecola State Park. The victim, a nurse from Portland, was also bit in the leg and survived, The Oregonian reported.