Shark Attack Florida: How Did 16-Year-Old Surfer Michael Adler Survive Vicious Shark Attack?

By Philip Ross on May 6, 2013 11:16 AM EDT

bull shark attack
Bull sharks, named for their blunt snouts as well as aggressive behavior, hunt in shallow waters – the same space that swimmers occupy – making them one of the most dangerous sharks in the water. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A 16-year-old surfer was attacked by a shark in Florida over the weekend in southern Brevard County. He and a few friends were riding waves near Melbourne Beach Saturday morning when Michael Adler fell of his board and felt a sharp pain in his foot.

Adler first thought that the pain he felt in his foot was from stepping on coral, but he quickly realized it was something far more sinister, News 13 reports.

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"His whole jaw just crammed down on my leg and right from there I kind of knew it was a shark attack," Adler told ABC News.

After being bitten, Adler said he paddled frantically for shore. "I was scared it was going to come back, so I paddled straight in, as fast as I possibly could," Adler told News 13 from his hospital bed at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, where paramedics took him following the attack.

It is unclear what kind of shark attacked Adler, but it was definitely big enough to leave at least 20 teeth marks in his foot and lower leg. Surgeons were able to repair the teen's broken tendons, and Adler will be able to surf again.

Adler can thank a good Samaritan for his hopeful recovery. ABC News reports that because of the quick-thinking of a bystander with military training who raced to the boy's aid and used the leash from his surfboard as a tourniquet, doctors were able to repair the damaged foot.

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were 663 unprovoked shark attacks in Florida over the 130 year period between 1882 and 2010. More than a third of these attacks were in Volusia County, located in the east-central part of Florida.

Of the 663 shark attacks in Florida between 1882 and 2010, 11 were fatal. Shark attacks in Florida are on the rise, however; with 25 shark attacks in 2012 alone, the state had more than twice as many shark attacks last year than any other state. Florida also boasts the most shark attacks in the world between 1990 and 2007.

While the most common sharks in Florida's waters are the 8-foot-long blacktip shark and the large and slender spinner shark, bull sharks are considered the most dangerous for their particularly belligerent nature.  According to National Geographic, bull sharks are among the most likely sharks to attack humans. The shark, which ranges in size from 7 ft to 11.5 ft long and weighs between 200 and 500 pounds, is an aggressive hunter that prefers shallow, tropical waters. They can even live in freshwater rivers and have been known to venture far inland.

Bull sharks get their name from their blunt snouts as well as their tendency to head-butt their prey before attacking it.

According to Space Coast Daily, "hit and run" attacks are the most common bites on surfers. The victim rarely sees the shark, as was the case with Adler, and after the initial chomp, the shark usually will not return. Attacks like these are usually a case of mistaken identity.

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