Exclusive Interview With Monterey Shark Attack Victim Todd Endris

posted by / News / September 2, 2007

{{{Monterey}}} Shark Attack Victim Todd Endris Speaks from the Burn Unit

Twenty four year old NorCal surfer Todd Endris got hit by a white shark while surfing Marina on the morning of August 28 — a Tuesday. Accounts of the attack managed to slip into the news in between Congressional sex scandals and Michael Vick and other headlines. It has always been our policy to track down attack victims and get the details, and sometimes they are gory. It is also our policy to help these surfers on the road to recovery by broing them a new wetsuit and/or a new surfboard to replace the equipment that was thrashed and trashed by Mr. White.As soon as news of Todd Endris’ attack got out we began looking for him. The operator at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center had never heard of him, most likely protecting him from the inevitable media feeding frenzy that follows all shark attack victims. Through the power of the Internet, we found contact information for Todd and left various messages, asking for an interview and promising help with his wetsuit and surfboard. On Friday night, Todd called from the Burn Unit and told his story

SURFING MAGAZINE: Is this Todd?

TODD ENDRIS: Yeah. What’s up?

How are you?

Oh man I’m run through, bro.

Got you pretty good I hear. No permanent damage?

They don’t think so. You know, well I mean I got some critical surfing muscles all torn up in my back and my upper right underneath my shoulder blade and stuff. And it missed my pleural cavity by about a millimeter. You could see my lungs when they were sewing me up.

Wow.

I got really lucky but at the same time this is going to take a lot of rehab, you know? A lot of physical therapy for me to be in the water again.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I have interviewed about a dozen shark attack victims and so I try to ask the right questions.

Shoot.

The last attack victim I interviewed was a girl named Megan Halavais. She got attacked up at Salmon Creek and it was like two years ago. The attack was bad, but she didn’t have medical {{{insurance}}}.

Ouch.

Do you?

Yeah I am insured.

Because the helicopter ride alone cost seven thousand bucks.

Yeah yeah, mine was like 40 minutes and I don’t know how much it cost but it was all comped because I’ve got health insurance.

Why did they take you to Santa Clara? Why not somewhere closer like Monterey or Santa Cruz?

Because the trauma unit is really good and all my lacerations were so deep they needed somewhere that was really sterile. So I am at the burn unit right now.

I wrote up a story a couple weeks ago about two paddleboarders who fought off a shark in {{{Malibu}}}. A big white shark was bumping a standup paddler and a prone guy came to his rescue. They were fighting this thing for a couple of minutes and it wouldn’t go away.

You know what — that is exactly what I was doing. I was parallel with the shore. I had just caught a wave and paddled back out. There were four other dudes surfing with me and I was looking back at them. I paddled right to the outside of them on top of the sandbar and I was sitting parallel facing south and it hit me coming from the shore, from where they were.

One thing I have learned from all these attack stories is the person who gets hit is always the person who moves. I interviewed a guy named Lee Fontan who was attacked at Bolinas four or five years ago. Someone dropped in on him and he got pissed so he paddled out past everyone else and sat on the edge of the sandbar and just as he stopped… he said he felt like a frog getting hit by a large mouth bass.

That’s exactly how… I couldn’t have described it better… there was no pain on impact. There was a bottom jaw underneath my board and the top jaw pretty much like clamped on my thigh. I was hitting it on the side of its head above the eye with the blunt end of my left fist.

What everyone else says, that I have talked to, before even fear, is “Look at the size of this thing.” They can’t believe how big they are.

It was so powerful and graceful and it was so fast and effective. He lifted me out of the water and bit down twice on me – once while I was in the air and once while I was going back into the water. He bit the same area, like an inch away and gave me another row of teeth marks.

Were you completely out of the water?

For, like, half a second I was out of the water probably, yeah.

Let’s go back and… first of all I grew up in Santa Cruz and Marina has always given me the creeps. I always think of sharks when I am there.

Even more than Moss Landing? We always thought it was a desert compared to Moss.

Yeah, because the water is clear and it’s kind of lonely. And you know the only time I think I have ever actually seen Mr. White was in Monterey.

The thing is my buddy Nick works for the abalone farm and a couple hours before I got hit he was about three miles directly out from Marina. They collect drifting kelp to feed the abalone. They were going like 20 MPH and his partner said, “What the hell is that?” There was like a 14 or 15-foot white shark just sitting there, basking at the surface. They pulled up next to it and measured it out at about 14 feet. So when I got attacked, I got to shore and my buddy Brad called Nick and said: “Todd got hit.” And Nick was like “Holy shit. I saw the shark that hit him, three miles out, just basking.”

You surf Marina a lot?

Yeah. I surf it every day.

And you live in Marina and are you going to school?

I graduated from the Cal State University Monterey Bay.

And you’re affiliated with the Monterey Aquarium?

I have my own business called Monterey Aquarium Service. We repair large reef aquariums. I do coral reefs and saltwater systems.

Where are you from originally?

Originally I am from just a little bit north of Santa Cruz. Up in the hills, like Boulder Creek.

You’ve been surfing Marina for how long?

Like eight years. Since 2000.

Ever seen a shark before?

I’ve been called out of the water like three times by people who have seen them, but I have never seen them.

So, this day I heard the surf wasn’t very good. Was it foggy or clear?

You know, it was a little overcast but it wasn’t foggy. It wasn’t like a sharky day. It wasn’t big.

Was it glassy or windy?

There was a little bit of texture on it. It was still morning so it wasn’t bad.

How long had you been in the water?

Like a half hour.

Were you lined up with any landmarks. Or just along the beach?

I was lined up with a sandbar a little north of the parking lot.

What size board were you on?

A 6’0”. A little fish. A 7S.

Is it all torn up?

It’s pretty thrashed. It looks like someone took a cheese slicer along the bottom of it.

So, the surf was so so. You’d been out about half an hour, and you caught a wave and were paddling back out…

And I was sitting on top of everybody else right on the edge of that sandbar and he came up from the shallows. It was only like six feet of water…. Less.

The other thing that all attacks have in common, is no one sees it coming.

They’re predators, bro, they ain’t going to show themselves. If you see a great white you aren’t going to get attacked.

And then they can’t believe something that big can sneak up on them.

Yep, exactly.

So this all happened in six feet of water?

You know the funny thing, bro, is that the only thing that was awkward is there were dolphins really close to us the whole time we were out there. They were swimming around us and swimming in front of and underneath us in a couple feet of water. And after I got hit – apparently from what the other guys said – is the dolphin all swarmed around behind me as if they were protecting me.

That’s what I hear. That’s a first. I’ve never heard that one before. So you didn’t sense anything weird in the dolphin behavior?

No, no because there’s so much sea life up there. There’s always dolphin but I didn’t think anything of it. I thought they were just being playful you know, like normal.

But dolphin swimming underneath you is a little weird, isn’t it? They usually don’t get that close.

Oh yeah sure. Here they have no fear, they catch waves right in front of you and surf underneath you. It’s not that big a thing. I didn’t think anything of it.

Right when it hit you, how clear were you. Everyone goes through the scenario in their heads, but what was the reality like?

It was fast. It was swift and powerful. I instantly started hitting the thing with the butt end of my left fist because I couldn’t hit it with anything else. Two bites and he let me go and then I was thrashing around in the water afterwards and he was underneath me and I was trying to get away from him and I kicked him real hard with my left foot. Which is my uninjured leg right now. It was gnarly and then I caught a wave in under my own power.

The first shark interview story I did was with Eric “Lucky” Larsen. He was attacked up at Davenport in like 1989. The shark tore him up pretty bad, but he said the worst part was after the shark attacked him it thrashed around and his leash got hung up on the shark’s dorsal fin and back. And it started towing him out to sea and Larsen thought it was going to take him a mile out and eat him.

Oooooh.

He said that was horrifying but his leash slipped off and he made it to shore. And then there was a kayaker, I forget where it was, but the shark got him from beneath and he went flying through the air and landed on the shark’s back. He slid off and watched the shark thrash his kayak, and then he had like a 15 minute swim through open water with nothing but an oar in his hand.

Holy… that’s gnarly. Hectic. You know one thing I want to say… There was a dude out there named Joe who was yelling at me after the attack to get my board. That seems obvious but I was pretty disoriented. He was paddling away from me, and I can’t blame him, but he yelled at me to get my board, and I did and that was how I got to shore. That’s one thing I wanted to clarify.

It’s on record now. Were you lying on your board or sitting on it?

I was sitting on my board.

And which way were you facing?

I was facing south. I had just caught that wave and sat on my board and turned around and looked at the guys who were inside of me. And he got me right then.

So you were looking down toward Monterey…

I was looking down into the bay.

So it got you from your left side?

Yeah from my left side.

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  • Arlene Uslander

    Great story! I am putting together an anothology of fate stories about animals. My previous fate anthology was about humans and won several awards. I have been looking all over for a story about dolphins, and your story would be perfet. Would you and your magazine give me permission to reprint it, giving you full credit, of course?

  • Dolores Ornelas

    Where can I contact Todd Endris? we need his help to save dolphins. Now the dolphins need his help. Please contact me at o_lolis@yahoo.com Thanks!