Salmon Creek Shark Attack

Julia Dolph

Nov 17, 2021

On October 5th, 38-year old Eric Steinley went out to surf at North Salmon Creek. According to The Press Democrat, in their article ‘Surfer Describes Shark Attack in Sonoma County that Left Him With Severe Injuries’ on Oct 5, 2021, Steinley felt something grab his leg and pull him underwater, “The feeling was heavy, like swimming with a bag of bricks on you.” Steinley said.

On October 5th, 38-year old Eric Steinley went out to surf at North Salmon Creek. According to The Press Democrat, in their article ‘Surfer Describes Shark Attack in Sonoma County that Left Him With Severe Injuries’ on Oct 5, 2021, Steinley felt something grab his leg and pull him underwater, “The feeling was heavy, like swimming with a bag of bricks on you.” Steinley said.
He then reached down to feel what the creature was and felt its face. Realizing that it was a shark, he started to wrestle himself free. He then attempted to punch the shark in the face but sliced his hand on the shark's teeth.
After finally getting free, he started paddling back to shore. He yelled to other surfers to warn them. When he returned to the sand, his friend, Davis, detached the leash from his board and used it as a makeshift tourniquet for Steinley’s leg. Everyone in the water got out and started to help, using a longboard as a makeshift stretcher to carry him up the hill. He then got taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in a helicopter. According to The San Francisco Chronicle in their article “The surfer who survived a shark attack on the Sonoma coast recounts his harrowing story: 'I'm glad I'm alive ”, the shark broke Eric’s right femur and fibula and severed the peroneal nerve, which is necessary for the movement of the lower legs, feet, and toes. A surgeon reconnected the nerve, but he won’t know for about three months how much function he will have of his leg. After running tests, officials of the Sonoma County Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that he was attacked by a 10-foot great white.
Mr. Ojeda-Jones (OJ), the sophomore English teacher here at Healdsburg High, was surfing about 50 yards away from Steinley at the time of the attack. OJ stated that he remembered hearing other surfers in the water “yelling with terror in their voices” that there was a shark somewhere nearby. He then caught a wave directly in, looked down, and saw a guy crawling on his stomach out of the water. He ran as fast as he could to get to him. He helped carry Steinley up the hill on the longboard and talked to the 911 operative.
Luckily, a paramedic who was about to surf with them saw what was happening, ran to get his kit, and started giving directions. When they got him to the parking lot, they set him down, and within about 4 minutes the first responders, who were lifeguards, showed up. While they were waiting, the paramedic started cutting his wetsuit and cleaned and wrapped some of the wounds.
Mr. OJ, who surfs at Salmon Creek about 2-6 times a week, states that he is not afraid to continue surfing there. He knows that sharks live in the water, and they were there first. “Generally they’re not man-eaters”, he said. “It’s usually a mistake, like juveniles mistaking us for a seal, and statistically it’s very unlikely to happen. Something as simple as driving to work every day is way more dangerous than surfing at Salmon Creek.”
After being given this information, we need to remember that sharks are misunderstood, and usually won’t attack unless provoked. Misinformation of sharks being unnecessarily violent creatures increases the violence on sharks. We need to realize that when we go in the water we are no longer the dominant predator, and sharks have the advantage. We need to find a way to coexist, so whenever a shark does attack, we don’t feel the need to kill all of them.
Steinley is now out of the hospital and on the road to recovery. According to the Florida Museum, 100 million sharks are killed a year. Shark attacks worldwide, however, are a minuscule 129, consisting of 57 unprovoked attacks, 39 provoked, 6 boats, and 27 others that were not confirmed. Sharks are crucial to a healthy ecosystem because they are the top predator, so they keep prey species at a healthy population and prevent algae overgrowth and the decline of coral reefs.

Photo by: Doc Silva