The Grand Junction, Colorado, native was boogie boarding in the clear Kauai waters during a vacation to Hawaii on Thursday when he encountered a shark

April 23, 2018 02:16 PM

WARNING: This story includes graphic photos

Dylan McWilliams has survived both a rattlesnake bite and a terrifying bear attack. Now, the 20-year-old adventure-seeker has yet another death-defying story to tell.

The Grand Junction, Colorado, native was boogie boarding in the clear Kauai waters during a vacation to Hawaii on Thursday when he encountered what he believes was an at least 6-foot tiger shark.

“Something hit my leg and I started looking around and saw blood,” McWilliams tells PEOPLE. “I saw the shark underneath me and I just started kicking at it and swimming for shore as fast as I could. It was pretty scary.”

He adds, “I remember thinking I had to get to the shore, so I just kept swimming.”

When McWilliams — who has spoken about the ordeal to multiple outlets — reached land, a woman rushed to his aid and an ambulance soon arrived to transport him to a local hospital. There, he says doctors gave him seven stitches to close the bite marks on his right calf.

Still, McWilliams says the brush with death didn’t faze him.

Dylan Mcwilliams after shark attack
Courtesy Dylan McWilliams
Dylan McWilliams after shark attack
Courtesy Dylan McWilliams

“I would’ve gotten back in the water that same day, but I couldn’t because of my leg,” he tells PEOPLE, noting that he plans to hit the waves again as soon as he can.

The incident comes just months after McWilliams says he fought for his life in July 2017 when a bear attacked him during a camping trip. PEOPLE previously interviewed McWilliams at the time of the incident.

“I woke up and a bear had the back my head and was dragging me out of my sleeping bag,” McWilliams — who was working as a wilderness survival teacher at the time — now recalls to PEOPLE, claiming that the animal was a nearly 300-lb. black bear. “I just started fighting back as best I could and it ended up dropping me about 15 feet away from my camp. It was scary.”

RELATED: Colorado Teen Wakes Up to ‘Crunching Sound’ as Bear Bites Into His Skull: ‘I Was Afraid for My Life’

Graphic photos taken after the incident appear to show McWilliams’ bloodied head.

McWilliams was taken to a nearby hospital after staffers called 911. There, he was given nine staples to his scalp before being released. During the time of the attack, preteen and teen campers were sleeping in cabins 100 feet away. No one else was injured in the attack.

After the attack, CBS Denver reported that Colorado Parks and Wildlife said that they trapped and euthanized a 280-pound black bear believed to have been the one that attacked McWilliams.

Camp site where Dylan McWilliams suffered bear attack
Courtesy Dylan McWilliams

About two years earlier, McWilliams says he suffered a rattlesnake bite while exploring in Utah. Still, he says that out of all the near-death experiences, the bear attack was the worst.

“Waking up to a bear dragging me was pretty scary,” he tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t know what was going on, I just knew I had a bear dragging me. I didn’t know how bad the bite marks were.”

Dylan McWilliams after bear attack
Dylan McWilliams

Now, McWilliams says it feels “good” to have survived so many potentially fatal situations — but he has no plans to change his lifestyle.

“I’m not gonna let those things change what I wanna do. I’m still gonna be going camping and sleeping under the stars and surfing and swimming,” he says. “Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to be like Steve Irwin and doing this kind of stuff is helping me get to do a little bit of what he did.”

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