July 7, 2014 at 8:23 AM ET
A swimmer who came eye to eye with a great white shark while being attacked on a southern California beach on Saturday is thankful to be alive following a harrowing ordeal.
"I saw that shark just eyeball to eyeball, just like you and I, exactly the same distance, and it came in and bit me,'' survivor Steve Robles said on TODAY Monday while reuniting with one of the men who helped rescue him. "I grabbed its nose, and I started to pull it off me. I got lucky that it released itself."
He embraced his rescuer, saying, "Huge thank you I mean I don't know. Just, you know — give me a hug man."
Robles, 50, was in the water off Manhattan Beach as part of his training for a swimming event in Hawaii coming up in September when he was bitten on his right hand and chest by a 7-foot juvenile great white shark that was trying to get away from a fisherman's line. The attack was captured on a cell phone video by witnesses, who said that fishermen on a nearby pier were chumming the water to attract fish and had been battling the great white for 40 minutes.
"Apparently the shark was very agitated, and I happened to be coming at that exact moment,'' Robles said. "I came very close to dying."
Robles was swimming with a dozen other members of the Southern California Aquatics swim team, who came to his rescue along with a group of surfers who helped get him to shore. He was treated at UCLA Medical Center on Saturday night and released on Sunday.
Conservation efforts have led to a resurgence in great white shark populations. There have been several encounters so far this summer, with one spotted off the coast of New Jersey last month and another one hooked in Brooklyn. An attack is still rare, as experts say you have a higher chance of dying in a vending machine accident than from a shark bite.
Manhattan Beach was reopened a day after the attack, although authorities banned fishing in the area until at least Tuesday.