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California man attacked by great white shark recounts terrifying moment: 'My worst fear'

Michael Trainor, 31, was attacked by a shark while surfing on Oct. 2. Doctors say he is lucky to have escaped with his life after the shark narrowly missed his femoral artery.

As Michael "Jared" Trainor drove to a Ferndale, California, beach last Sunday afternoon to go surfing, he thought about how locals call October "Sharktober."

"It's known in that community that you don't want to be surfing that much or alone in October. They call it ‘Sharktober,’" he told Fox News Digital. "So, that's what was going through my mind as I pulled up to the beach."

Trainor, a 31-year-old recently married father of one little boy, operates a farm in Humbolt County. He can see the beach where he surfs from his property, especially this time of year, when the vegetation isn't as dense. He grew up in Folsom but started surfing around the Santa Cruz area when he was younger, but he didn't get "fully invested" in the sport until he moved to Humboldt County. 

His friend called him that morning, Oct. 2, to tell Trainor that "the surf was good" at a different location from where he was headed.

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"I actually almost considered … not going to this spot at all," Trainor said. All of this went through his mind that day before he got in the water at Centerville Beach, but he pushed past his concerns aside and decided to hit the waves.

He noticed that there were a lot of seals — "maybe a little more than usual" — in the water that afternoon. In hindsight, Trainor said, the seals were mostly in the shallows, which could have signified that there was "something lurking farther out."

"I must've been in the water for 10, not even 15, minutes. The first set of waves came through. I paddled past them and sat on my board, and then I was kind of having that ominous feeling anyway, and, next thing I knew, I was under water."

He could feel himself being pulled farther under water, with his arms and legs above him, pointed toward the surface. He could also feel that his right leg had been "chomped on."

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"I thought it was a seal, because the deepest point of contact was around my knee, so it made it feel like it was a smaller bite," Trainor said.

Trainor used his left leg to kick what he thought was a seal's head, and the animal released his leg. He also had his surf board pinned underneath him at that point, which he credits in part with saving his life. Trainor started swimming toward the beach, and at that point there was another surfer in the water who witnessed the attack and helped Trainor ashore before calling an ambulance.

"I didn't realize how badly I'd been injured … and when the fire department came, they tied a tourniquet to my leg, and when they cut off my suit, that's when I saw the … bite marks in the board, and I started to realize that it was, in fact, a shark," Trainor said.

And not just any shark. Trainor and his family learned later that he had been attacked by a great white, estimated to be about 13 feet long.

The 31-year-old feels "blessed" that he hadn't seen it or known that the animal that had attacked him was a shark, because the thought of kicking a shark might have increased his fear and adrenaline and potentially made his efforts to get away less successful. 

"I just remember saying, ‘Holy s***, that was a shark!’ I can't believe that was my worst fear, and it happened," he said.

After he was treated in the hospital, doctors told Trainor he was lucky that he escaped the great white with his life. Medical professionals in the area frequently deal with shark attack victims, and Trainor's injuries were relatively minor — six lacerations across his inner thigh, a tear in his MCL on his knee, and some bone penetration.

"The surgeon was also a surfer and kept stressing how fortunate I am and how close it could've been to a life-or-death situation," Trainor said, explaining that the shark had just barely missed his right femoral artery, and if the hospital had been any farther away, he could have gone into cardiac arrest.

Trainor is "still in a bit of disbelief" about what happened but does plan to surf again, just not as often alone or "during high feeding times."

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