I swam yesterday, as I have been doing for the past 4 months on Saturdays now, with my group of open water swimmers. There are “World class” athletes in our group, including two English Channel swimmers, and Steve Robles who swam the Catalina Channel last year. Our group yesterday included two Los Angeles County Lifeguards, a Nurse, and various others of mainly Intermediate and higher swimmers from all types of backgrounds. Our Saturday swim usually includes swimming from the Hermosa Beach Pier to the Manhattan Beach Pier, and then, for some of us, we swim back as well (total 4 miles).
As you may have heard, Steve was attacked by a rather agitated shark near the Manhattan Beach Pier. What you don’t know is that it was God who saved his life.
There are at least half a dozen reasons why that shark was there, several illegal reasons, and with a hook in its mouth, agitated, driven by the scent of blood in the water (since the fishermen had been “chumming” all week apparently) and basically in the wrong place at the wrong time for Steve.
But, and this is the amazing part, there are at least twice as many reasons why Steve is alive today, and sitting at home with a life-changing story to tell, and most likely with no permanent damage to anything on his physical body, the key reason of which can only be God. I was less than 100′ away apparently when Steve was attacked, but I was with the “Lead” group of swimmers who had left the last buoy on our way to the pier and we were BOOKING (swimming as fast and as hard as we could on the “Last leg”). We had our heads down and were completely oblivious to the fact Steve got attacked.
One of the swimmers in the lead group swam over the fishing line and thought to himself “Strange, we don’t usually find fishing lines this far from the pier”, but even he simply kept swimming since what really happened was so completely out of our scope of belief! The shark, swam under the bulk of our group, but for whatever reason, it wound up under Steve. When it saw Steve, and he saw it, the thing made a complete U-turn Steve said, and slammed into his chest on his right side.
OK, so Cheryl just found a video posted on YouTube showing the shark attack, including the fishermen on the pier who had the shark on a line. There is a shot in the sequence where the shark first breaches the water, jumps up and out of the water for the first time (on the video at least). It came up right behind me, I was the furthest swimmer out (to sea, furthest from shore) at that point. The thing came up right behind me, about 60′ away it looks like. That happens twice on the video (link below) at about 30s and again at about 54s.
Sorry, that was an interlude, because this narrative, like the events from yesterday are going to be a little bit “Freaky.”
Where was I? The thing, apparently, swam under part of our group, somehow, but when it saw Steve, he said they locked eyes for a moment, then it made its attack and grabbed him. Steve said the thing did a quick roughly 10′ U-turn and hit him like a freight train. An aggressive move, not a “random bite” as the Curator at the Roundhouse Aquarium (on the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier) had suggested. It likely knocked the wind out of Steve, he remembers staring eye to eye with that shark, less than a foot away from his face for about 2-3s.
Then, the shark was chomping and trying to tear and get a firmer grip on him (as sharks do) and he said he just reacted, and grabbed the sharks snout with his hand (or hands) and simply pried the thing off his side. It had him right under the arm pit, so it’s a wonder how he got the thing off him at all. He did though, but as he did, one of the shark’s teeth (probably an upper?) sliced his thumb as it let go of him, as he was pushing it away. That slice went through an artery and bled profusely. That’s what most of us saw when he was on the beach, was the blood all over the place from his thumb, it was pumping out.
The wounds on his chest bled also, but just not as much, they were at least an inch deep, and 6 or more inches long, as a result of Steve prying the shark loose from his torso. Imagine all that open flesh and then salt water hits it? No wonder he screamed so loud! The fear of the attack was bad enough I’m sure. Steve was pretty well scared out of his mind. Who wouldn’t be?
The group of swimmers he was with heard him screaming, the first guy from our group to get to him was only a few feet away, and Nader simply grabbed him and held him up, because Steve had stopped swimming and was screaming and yelling “I was attacked! I got bitten!”
Nader held Steve, while Mary Ellen (another swimmer in our group) looked him over. Mary Ellen is a Registered Nurse at Children’s Hospital with nearly 30 years experience. The shark was still right by them this entire time, while she and Nader started assessing the situation, and tried to figure out what to do. Sue was there by that point, she helped along with some surfers who paddled over, as well as a stand-up paddleboarder who also paddled over to get Steve up on to the paddleboard, and then they started pushing him into shore.
Those of us who were in the lead group of swimmers kept swimming because we had our heads down and were swimming about as fast and hard as we could on that last leg of our 2-mile swim as I said before. The shark was apparently out to sea at one point, where they should have cut the line. It’s about the 30s spot in the video where it comes up right behind me and then continues across the line of our group (the direction we were traveling) and runs into Steve.
In the video:
You start hearing Steve screaming about the 1:15 point. One of the guys in the video says something like “It jumped right on top of him…” That’s the actual attack. I’m pretty steamed about these people. There are numerous reports they were “Chumming” (throwing blood and smelly stuff in the water to attract game fish) and then they lied in their interview as well about using “Sardines and anchovies” for bait. Everyone knows (anyone who has fished down there) that the guys use those kinds of bait to catch Mackerel and then they chop up the Mackerel and use that for the bait on the 3″ big game fish hooks. Those are usually on steel (wire) leaders that they simply hook onto a long line (high strength monofilament or dacron) and slide down into the water.
I really don’t care if they prosecute these dudes or not, but we need the truth, because the one thing I do know is this attack was not Steve’s or anyone in the water’s fault! Steve swam out there nearly every day this past week, and the reports are that those people on the pier were chumming nearly every day. You must realize that if they catch fish, clean them on the pier and then throw the guts and other inedible parts (for humans) back in the ocean, that should be considered chum as well, and so is strictly illegal! Now we know how dangerous this situation was. There were, in addition to the open water swimmers out there of which there were probably 150 yesterday (15 in our group), likely 500 people in the water within a few hundred yards of that pier.
The stupidity of what the fishermen did is beyond comprehension.
After we got out of the water, I borrowed a cell phone from Nader’s wife, and called my wife. I asked her to get in touch with Glenda (Steve’s wife), somehow, through our church (Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach) or through Keller Williams (where Steve works) and tell Glenda what happened. She managed to get through to Glenda, and got her to the hospital where they transported Steve.
Meanwhile, after we watched them applying what first aid they could on the beach for Steve, and after Mary Ellen and I prayed for him, we all walked slowly back to the Hermosa Pier, mostly in a state of disbelief I think. After I got back there, I talked with the group for a bit and then got on my bike and pedaled home. I met my wife at the door, she said she had breakfast ready so I ate and we jumped in the car and got to the hospital. I just felt very strongly (from the Lord most likely) that I needed to be there.
As I said, there are many reasons why Steve was attacked by this shark, top of which is stupidity. However, the number of reasons he’s alive is far more than the reasons he was attacked. Thus, I conclude, God Himself arranged things so Steve would not die in this incident. The facts are that Steve swam out there nearly every day this past week (alone), putting on about 20 miles or more – even before yesterday. Secondly, he was with our group when it happened, and within 10 feet of 3 people, one of whom was a nurse, and at least one other swimmer strong enough to hold the both of them up. Next, the fish was probably somewhat tired since it had been on the fishing line fighting that long. Third, Steve’s presence of mind to grab its snout and push it off, in spite of the pain as the teeth ripped his flesh.
Next, there’s the amazing fact that the shark’s teeth didn’t penetrate his rib cage, Steve had a little extra padding (small amount of fat layer) that helped protect him too. Also, the shark hit his chest, and not his abdomen. It didn’t get an arm, where ripping of the brachial artery would certainly have killed him (he would have bled out). Same for a leg and the femoral artery (most likely anyhow). The shark could have nicked a major artery anywhere else (neck, arm, leg, etc..) even as they struggled.
It was a juevenile Great White Shark, not an adult. Any larger and the thing might have had teeth big enough to penetrate his rib cage, or its jaws could have been powerful enough to crush his ribs. The fact of the fish’s size probably helped Steve get it off as well. Keep in mind though, that this could still very easily have been fatal if the shark had simply bitten some other part of his anatomy as detailed above.
Keep in mind how close the paddleboarder was, and the fact he kept his cool and came over and jumped off his paddleboard and helped get Steve on it. Several surfers paddled over, and said the shark was still visible swimming underneath them the entire time they were trying to get Steve to shore. Was it tired? Was it done with its “Reflex” agitated behavior? Was it simply now being controlled by God Himself and kept quiet and out of the way? Who knows?
They got Steve into shore relatively quickly, within about a minute and a half it appears, and the lifeguards met them in the surf with the “Rescue board”. They quickly attended him and his wounds, and got him transported within about 10 minutes. Even though his thumb bled profusely, likely it wasn’t as bad as if the shark had gotten his wrist or something else. It could have easily let go of his side and bitten something else, why didn’t it?
All those people around, all those “Coincidences” all those other things lined up so that Steve survived this attack? The only attack ever in the South Bay of Los Angeles? I don’t believe in coincidence. I, for one, am giving all credit and all glory to God on this one for sparing the life of my friend Steve Robles.
Incidentally, one of the members of our church small group said his son was walking with his family on the strand later in the day yesterday, and a fellow who was rollerblading suddenly hit the ground behind them. He just heard a “Thud!” He turned around, the guy was down, foaming at the mouth and such, and they called 911 immediately, but the paramedics could not revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene, right by the Manhattan Beach Pier on the Strand.
So it was not your typical day. It was not one I care to repeat either. I thank God again that He spared Steve’s life. We are continuing to pray for he and Glenda. It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks ahead I think.