Callahan man bit by shark
Michael Dingman was swimming to shore to retrieve his surfboard when he felt something clamp down on his right forearm.
He suspects it was either a nurse or bull shark that took a chunk of his flesh Sept. 24.
“I was underwater whenever it grabbed me and I surf with contacts in, so my eyes weren’t open, so I couldn’t see what kind of shark it was or how big or anything,” he said. “But after looking at the stitches, the (shark’s) size – is basically 5 feet or so.”
The Callahan resident had spent the earlier part of the day surfing along the jetties at Huguenot Park in Jacksonville with a friend.
After his friend left the beach, Dingman went back into the water to surf. He fell from the surfboard, and without a surfboard leash attached to his ankle, the waves carried the board to the shore.
He began swimming underwater to retrieve it and he soon encountered the shark.
“All I could I picture in my mind was that, like, I put my hand in a bear trap. So if I had to compare it to anything, it’s like a super spiky bear trap,” the 23-year-old said. “The pressure – the grip that it had – it’s like, it’s hard to escape. It still plays back in my mind. Like, I still wake up in the morning and I’m like, I got bit. It’s crazy.”
Dingman said he panicked for a few seconds after he realized what had happened. He stood up and held up his arm and told his friends ashore that he had been bitten. Other surfers who were out in the water nearby quickly returned to shore
The group applied pressure to stop the bleeding by using a surfboard leash as a tourniquet. He was soon transported to UF Health Jacksonville and was hospitalized for two days.
Dingman has worked seasonally as a lifeguard at Huguenot Park for the past five years. He was last on duty Sept. 2. He had planned to be sworn-in to join the U.S. Navy the day after his injury, but those plans are on hold until he recovers.
He plans to be a parachute rigger.
Dingman said that in his years as a lifeguard, he has not assisted with or witnessed a shark attack.
His shark encounter hasn’t changed his mind about returning to his favorite hobbies of surfing and saltwater fishing. He’s surfed since he was about 4 years old.
“I was surprised,” Dingman said of the attack. “But it is a risk whenever you get into the ocean. That’s where sharks live. You get in there, you respect them; they respect you. I was probably in the wrong. I probably just swam up and we just ran into each other. It’s no problem. I already know that when I get these stitches back out, I’ll be right back out there.”
He would like to return to catch more waves before October’s end.
“If it happens again, I know I need to buy a lottery ticket that day,” Dingman quipped.
“I’m blessed that it was only one nicked tendon and two nicked arteries. I could have bled out on the beach if it was worse.”