Coastal Post Online


June 2002

Shark Attack Beaten Back

Listening to Dad pays off for shark attack victim

By Alex Horvath

A Bolinas surfer who was attacked by a Great White Shark May 31 off Stinson Beach is alive today thanks to quick thinking on his part - and remembering the advice of his surfer father about what to do in the event of a shark attack.

Lee Fontan, 24, had originally planned on working side-by side with his father, Greg, on one of their jobs in their landscaping business. His plans changed with big waves and the offer of companionship on a clear spring day.

"His girlfriend called and asked him to go surfing," the elder Fontan said. "I told him never to pass up an opportunity like that."

What began as a peaceful afternoon for surfers and swimmers on the waters off Stinson and Bolinas ended in terror with Fontan being attacked by a Great White Shark estimated to be between 12-15 feet in length. The Great White took four bites out of Fontan leaving an approximately 8-10 inch laceration on his left leg with bone and muscle exposed. On his upper back area, Fontan was left with a mid-line rib area wound approximately 8 inches long, and a nick on his left arm.

On Saturday, the morning after the incident, Greg Fontan said he was proud of his son's response.

"I just got off the phone with him. He told me that he had listened to everything I had ever told him all of his life about what to do if a shark attacked him - that he had tried to stay very calm," Fontan said.

"I've always told him to be ready to fight it - that the most sensitive part of the sharks is its nose. The shark won't be able to see very well so you've got to hit it.

"The shark initially surprised him - knocking him off his board. But he kept screaming at it and trying to punch it. He only got in a few good hits - but he managed to scare it away.

Fontan said that at the time of the attack that his son had been surfing alone yards away from a group of surfers on longboards. None of the surfers saw the shark coming. Several reported hearing the "thud" when the shark attacked Fontan's board, he said.

According to reports, Fontan was able to get back on his board and with the help of other nearby surfers paddle back into shore. Rescue workers from the National Park Service and the Stinson Beach Volunteer Fire Department performed first aid at the scene. He was later airlifted by helicopter to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

"Lee looked death right in the face and fought it," said the victim's uncle, Randy Fontan. "He put everything together and he didn't panic. He listened to everything (his father) told him. It's probably what saved him."

Greg Fontan said his son had told him he was plagued with images of shark's teeth coming at him.

"That's pretty normal," Fontan said. "He's also bummed out because they had to cut his new wetsuit off of him."

"Right now," Fontan added, "I will buy him any kind of new wetsuit that he wants."



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