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Surfer fights off shark at Cape Kiwanda

Shark Encounter: The aftermath of damage after Nate Holstedt went toe-to-toe with a shark in the Cape Kiwanda waters. Photo / Courtesy of Nate Holstedt

“It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever been involved in, in my life,” said Pacific City resident Nate Holstedt after fighting off a shark at Cape Kiwanda.

Max Kirkendall
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It was just an ordinary Tuesday morning for Holstedt and his buddies, as they ventured down to Cape Kiwanda beach for an 8 a.m. surf session. Holstedt and his crew were peacefully waiting for a few choice waves to roll in when he suddenly noticed an unfriendly guest in the water.

“I was sitting back, waiting for a wave, looking at the horizon and all the sudden I felt something hit my leg,” Holstedt said. “I turned and saw a shark grab the tail of my board and then pull me directly underwater.”

Holstedt sunk down in the ocean a few feet before regrouping and swimming up to the surface. After popping his head up out of the water, Holstedt hoped he had seen the last of the finned fiend, but that wasn’t the case.

“I just saw a big dorsal fin swimming right at me and I looked to my right and thankfully my board was there,” Holstedt said. “I just grabbed what I had next to me and started fighting.”

As he tomahawked his board around in front of him in hopes of blocking an attack, Holstedt assumes he delivered a blow to the shark’s nose, due to the crack in the side of his board. The shot must have deterred the shark from a possible attack and Holstedt then pulled his legs up out of the water, out of harms way, and swam to the beach as quick as he could.

Since he began surfing at the Pacific City beach over 15 years ago, Holstedt has only encountered a shark one other time. Another rarity Holstedt noted from the event was the shark’s aggressiveness, which he said just doesn’t happen often.

“I got lucky on the first bite when he just got the tail of my board,” Holstedt said. “Usually when they bite a board they figure out it’s not what they want and just scatter, but this one wanted something more. It’s super rare and I think it was just a bad egg in the bunch.”

Although the type of shark remains undetermined, Holstedt estimates it was about 10 feet long based on its two and half foot tall dorsal fin. The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department has been warning others of the incident and have cautioned others from entering the water.

After the daunting ordeal, Holstedt was filled with a great deal of relief. And even though an experience of that magnitude may have deterred others from getting back in the ocean, that fear won’t be stopping Holstedt from catching waves in the future.

“It’s not going to keep me out of the water and it should never deter anyone from surfing,” Holstedt said. “It’s a rare event, but the more you do something, the more you increase your odds of having something like that happen. I’m super lucky I’ve got all my limbs and I’m super thankful it worked out the way it did.”