Surfer loses chunk of board in Central California shark attack

After a great white shark bit a large chunk out of a woman’s surfboard over the weekend, state officials have a warning for people at Morro Strand State Beach: Stay out of the water.

At least for one more day.

Elinor Dempsey of Los Osos was rattled but otherwise unhurt after her encounter Saturday morning with the shark. The attack sent her and other beachgoers at the Central California beach swimming for their lives.

“I was sitting on my board relaxing. I saw a large object, it was the color of a dolphin,” Dempsey told KSBY-TV.


Witnesses told the San Luis Obispo Tribune the creature swam around her, under her and finally up toward the nose of the board, within arm’s reach of Dempsey.

Then it took a bite.

“It bit my board, realized it wasn’t a dolphin…and I just turned around and just started swimming,” Dempsey told a reporter shortly after the attack.

Dempsey said she was the farthest out in the water but other surfers were nearby. One of them saw part of the attack and the shark’s gray fin and tail.

“I saw her getting tumbled off her board and the shark underneath the board, so it’s kind of a tangle of her, the board and the [surfboard’s] leash,” witness Jamie Bettencourt told the Tribune.

State park officials told reporters they think the attack was launched by a juvenile great white shark.

“Time sort of stops,” Dempsey told KSBY-TV.

The shark was so close, “I think I could’ve patted it,” she said.


State park officials who were responding to another call found a crowd gathering on the beach and investigated. Authorities posted a 72-hour warning for the beach after the attack.

Two sharks were also spotted in La Jolla over the weekend but no attacks were reported.

As for Dempsey, she’s not sure what she’ll do with her damaged board. Someone suggested she hang it as wall art to remember the attack, she told reporters.

“I’m not sure I always want to remember that,” she told KEYT.


Dempsey said she’ll definitely continue to surf, but might stay closer to shore for awhile.

“And I didn’t get a wave,” she joked after the attack. “That’s the worst part.”

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