Getting attacked by a Great White shark is traumatic, emotionally, physically, financially and futuristically.
On October 3, 2021, Eric Steinley was surfing a nice, sunny, fall day at Salmon Creek – north of Bodega Bay – when he was attacked by a Great White shark. He made it to the beach under his own steam, where many helpful hands stabilized him and loaded him into a helicopter for a fast ride to the emergency room in Santa Rosa.
Getting attacked by a shark is traumatic, emotionally, physically, financially and futuristically.
Surfers north of the Golden Gate spend more than half the year suffering through fog, onshore winds, flat spells, junky swells, rain, snow, sleet and all kinds of ook, fiending for those clean, fresh blue-sky offshore west swell days in the fall.
And then you get attacked by a shark. A year of recovery, time off work, lack of funds, lack of exertion, lack of adrenaline.
We asked Eric how it’s going.
How you feeling?
Feeling pretty good, I keep pushing myself with PT and exercise until I can’t anymore and then I have to rest again for a couple of days and the process starts over.
Going stir crazy?
Going a little stir crazy but not too bad. I’ve pretty much watched everything on Netflix and have resorted back to drawing which was something I did years ago.
Drawing? A surfboard collector in Malibu wanted to add a shark-chomped board to his quiver. I arranged for him to buy the board from Megan Halavais, who got bit at Salmon Creek in October of 2005. To illustrate the board, he ordered this illustration of what the attack looked like. I hope this isn’t what you’re drawing.
Well I did this drawing and made a t-shirt of it.
You feeling good about a full recovery? What do the doctors say? How often do you do physical therapy?
I go to the hospital to do PT once a week with the therapist and then an additional four days a week at the gym/pool as well as balance and stretching exercises every day. Basically If I don’t stretch my leg straight daily it would just stay slightly bent due to scar tissue. I also have to do range of motion exercises for my foot because I’m only able to move it downward and the same thing would happen.
As far as balance, I don’t have complete feeling in my leg or foot so I’m having to learn to use different muscles to compensate in order to be able to do normal activities. Full recovery is unclear right now. I’ve been told to wait a year to see how much the nerve is going to heal and then we can go from there.
Any cute nurses?
Has the nerve pain diminished?
Yes it has. I do take medication that dulls the nerve pain sensation but regardless it has gotten much better.
Still no Post Traumatic Shark Distress Dreams? Any weird dreams?
Nope, I even visited the scene of the crime for the first time last weekend. Got to see a bunch of my buddys and watch the surf for a bit. I thought I might have some kinda flashback or something but I didn’t.
A lot of attack victims talk about that, and they don’t like it.
Had I been physically able I would have paddled out into the giant walls of closeouts.
Is your Barcelonan/Basque gal still by your side? Please tell her thank you on behalf of the entire surfing world. She’s a good egg.
The Girlfriend is still holding strong. It definitely hasn’t been easy on the relationship but hopefully we are through the worst of it.
Do you know how much it has all cost?
I do see bills still rolling in and I forward them to my provider. As far as a total I’m not sure yet. I know that I’ll be doing PT and having to take medication for a long time and who knows about the long term expenses. I’m also aware that my medical insurance runs out in February and I will start having to pay for that out of pocket until I’m able to return to work and my hours fill up my “benefits bank.”
We had a NorCal-class winter storm in Malibu the other day and it made me homesick for wild and wooly winters in Santa Cruz. I tell people about your attack and say, aside from the horror of almost dying and/or losing a limb, and the time in the hospital, and getting your surfboard and wetsuit ruined and the medical bills and the down time, in NorCal you spend half the year pining for fall so you can go surf in clean west swell and offshore winds under blue skies – and you get attacked by a fricking shark.
How are you handling that? Do you hold a grudge against the stupid fricking shark?
Absolutely not. I was lucky enough to be able to paddle in without getting chomped again and had a great group of guys who saved my ass by putting a tourniquet on my leg and carrying me a pretty decent distance across the sand and up a huge flight of stairs to the parking lot. On top of that the helicopter was onsite within about 15 mins after I got to the beach. I’ll count my blessings on this one.
I saw that your GoFundMe was up to $44,350. As Spicoli would say: “Righteous bucks!” Were you ever able to collect the GoFundMe? That must help ease the stress a little.
I was eventually able to get the GoFundMe funds, it’s been such a help having it there. I had no idea all the things I would need it for and how much stress it would help relieve. The brace alone that I need to be able to walk cost $1,000 dollars. Then there’s medical copays, everything my insurance doesn’t cover, being out of work etc. It seems that the primary goal of my medical provider (who has been amazing) is to get me walking and back to work again. I completely appreciate this but from someone who basically lives to surf that only goes so far. That’s where outpatient Sports Therapy comes into play as well as hopefully getting a custom foot brace made specifically for surfing. All this will be covered by the GoFundMe so I don’t end up hating life and losing something I love.
So what’s the short and long-term prognosis? Surfing again when?
I am planning on trying to longboard in February. I wear a brace that keeps my foot at a 90 degree angle and don’t have complete feeling in the foot as well. I’ve been trying a grandpa-like popup at home and it’s pretty comical. We’ll see how it goes.