Experts said that sharks do not hunt humans, but may have mistaken the man for a seal

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great white shark
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A California surfer was hospitalized after he was bitten by a great white shark this weekend.

The 35-year-old man was in the water off Gray Whale Cove State Beach on Saturday when he was bitten in the right leg at 9:15 a.m., the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said.

He was able to swim to shore following the bite, which officials said came from a great white shark between 6 and 8 feet long.

"He was relatively close to the shore and he was out surfing and a great white just took one bite out of him and released him," San Mateo Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Ham told KNTV.

Ham told KPIX that the surfer suffered 10 lacerations to the back of his right thigh, but was able to swim back to shore with help from bystanders.

Among those bystanders was Thomas Masotta, who told KNTV that he was fishing when he noticed the man limping across the beach yelling for help.

Gray Whale Cove
Gray Whale Cove State Beach
| Credit: Cal Fire CZU

"I had been fishing for about 15 minutes when I heard a guy, kind of over his shoulder, just holler for me," he told the outlet. "And I looked over at him, he was waving me and he just collapsed down to the ground."

Masotta quickly called 911, and while emergency crews got there within 10 minutes, he spent the time in between making a tourniquet with his fishing equipment to try to contain the man's bleeding.

"I looked at the guy and said, 'Help might be on its way, but let's get you taken care of,'" Masotta told KNTV. "He was pretty alert. In fact, he was the one that said, 'Do you have anything that I can use to tie around my leg?'"

The man was reportedly taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and has since been released.

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David Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center, told KNTV that sharks are not in the water searching for humans to eat, and that in this case, the creature likely mistook the man for a seal.

"[Humans] are not on the menu. We occasionally have shark incidents like we did today, but it's generally very rare," Ebert said. "In the case of surfers, they probably can't make out exactly what it was. They know there is something there, but doesn't have the same type of vibe that a seal does. It's probably a lot of times where you see the bite and spit. Where the shark will bite the surfer and let it go. It's probably more of an investigatory action."