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Risk & Reward

Stay Wild


by Justin “Scrappers” Morrison

Image Ganked from WikiCommons

Image Ganked from WikiCommons

It’s harvest time in Oregon. Pumpkins are ripe, salmon are spawning, and the surf is fucking great! The beach crowds have died down due to the chance of rain and the swells have picked up. For Northwest surfers this is the most rewarding time of year.

Indian beach is one of the most popular surf spots on the Oregon coast. It’s one of the most reliable spots and it’s outta-town parking limitations keep crowds from getting out of control. Last week's shark attack was a true tragedy that will have a lasting effect on this surf spot for years to come. 

To respect the privacy and recovery of the attack victim we’ve interviewed a fellow surfer who was out in the water with him, Russell Drummond.

Stay Wild: Why did you go to Indian that day?

Russell: Ironically, we went to Indian because we had been in the water when a shark was spotted at Pacific City over Labor Day weekend, and we had been apprehensive about going to Smugglers due to the whale, so we settled on Indian (those being the three main spots we surf) both for proximity and thinking it might be less shark-y.

How many people were out in the water?

By my memory there were 6 people in the water. I think at the attack there were 4 in the lineup, and I was in the rip getting a ride back out after having just gotten a wave.

What grabbed your attention after the attack happened?

On my way back out I noticed everyone was paddling back in toward shore, which was weird. One of the surfers waved at me to head toward shore, so I ejected myself from the rip and paddled back to shore as fast as possible. I was the last one out of the water.

How did the victim get to shore?

The victim (this is word of mouth information) paddled back to shore himself. The dude was tough as nails, and didn’t really show any signs of trauma or being in pain until quite a long time after being bitten. He was very aware and very with-it the entire time we were giving aid.

Did he tell you how it went down?

I only heard bits of how it went down, but it sounded like he was bitten and pulled under momentarily, and was released after punching the shark in the nose. As far as I know there was no second encounter after that first bite. This again is all via word of mouth and little tidbits from Joe (the victim) while he was directing our first aid.

Joe is a trauma nurse, so he knew exactly what needed to happen. He had the first people there get him on his back onto a surf board, place a tourniquet, and start carrying him up to the parking lot at Indian. I arrived as they were carrying him up to the lot and helped carry Joe on the board. Once at the truck we applied pressure to the wounds and got him in blankets and towels to keep him warm. This was all per Joe’s instructions. He also knew his blood type and other vital info that he relayed to the person who was speaking with 911. This all while trying to stay calm and dealing with the pain of a very gnarly wound in his thigh and ankle. As I said, the guy is tough as nails.

Will you go back to Indian any time soon?

I will return to Indian, I am giving myself two weeks to get my head back before paddling out again. I really enjoy surfing, and it is just one of those things where you have to assess the risk, know it’s a real possibility, and either accept it and surf or decide to give up surfing Oregon (and California, and a lot of other places). All outdoor activities have risk. As far as the specific beach, I don’t think it matters all that much where you are on the Oregon Coast. We thought we were being smart by going to Indian, and ended up being very wrong.

Shark attacks are one of those things that are in the back of the heads of most surfers I’ve talked to, but it always seems pretty remote. As far as I know the last shark incident in Oregon was 2013. 3 years ago. Being in the water when it happened definitely made me think harder about it, because now I KNOW the sharks are out there, but it’s still an activity I want to continue doing. It did make me google shark proof wetsuits though.

Wish Joe a healthy recovery and be careful out there!

Read Part One of this story here >>>

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