"Lewis (Samuels), the first guy I paddled over to, said I was gone for five seconds," Fraley said. "I basically paddled on top of his surfboard."
Yesterday, and the day before, in the interests of securing enough hits to see our traffic soar past Stab and The Inertia, mission complete etc, we ran a series of Great White stories involving the surf writer Lewis Samuels.
In the first, Lew recalled the day he saw another surfer, Royce Fraley, in the jaws of a Great White, which subsequently let him go. Lew said he paddled over to help and described, in detail, the attack and the escape from White Death in 2006.
“They fell down in an explosion of whitewater, like when a whale breaches. Fifteen feet is as big as a car and they’re a lot fatter in person than you’d think they would be. And he was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone, like a fucking whirlpool of displaced whitewater where he’d been,” said Lew.
The next story was Fraley’s debunking of Lew’s version,
“The bottom line is that he paddled away from me the whole time, at no time did he help me,” he wrote.
Now, from the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle, Fraley tells the story differently.
“As I’m going down, I’m literally thinking about my kids and my family,” he said. “I’ve been tumbled 100 yards by one whitewater and held on. I just thought I could ride this out and tried to remain positive. As I was going down, it felt like a high rate of speed. … On two occasions, my body bounced off the side of the shark. Then all of a sudden I was released and I just flew back to the top.
“Lewis (Samuels), the first guy I paddled over to, said I was gone for five seconds,” Fraley said. “Soon as I came back up to the top, I just started paddling like there was no tomorrow over to him. I basically paddled on top of his surfboard.”
To further complicate matters, five years after the attack Lew wrote a story for Surfer magazine about sharks and northern California, which included an interview with Fraley.
The Red Triangle, a hazy region of fear, is defined by that notion, stretching along the California coast from Monterey to Bodega Bay. If you want to know what classifies a spot as sharky, Royce Fraley is a good person to ask. He’s not an expert on White Sharks, but his experiences speak for themselves: In 1997 he was “torpedoed” by a White near Bodega Bay. The shark hit him hard enough to launch him into the air, but did not bite. In 2002, Royce applied first aid when a local was attacked at their home break. And in December 2006, Royce was attacked himself, dragged beneath the surface, while I watched from a hundred yards away.
Why would Fraley agree to an interview with Lew if he believed he had left him to die four years earlier?
Why did Fraley fail to correct the draft of the Surfer story, which was emailed to him for fact checking prior to it appearing in print?
And why did Fraley tell various news outlets conflicting accounts of the attack?
(Editor’s note: seeking clarification and comment from the attack-ee.)