Joseph Tanner was resting his arms on his surf board when something grabbed his right leg and yanked him under the waves, he recalled Wednesday, nearly three weeks after the shark attack north of Oregon's Cannon Beach. The shark had his leg in its jaw, and as Tanner struggled to break free, he remembered that he should try to punch the shark in the nose or poke it in the eye. "I opened my eyes and there were gills in front of me. I can't reach the nose and I can't reach the eyeballs, so I just started hitting the gills," he tells the AP. The shark released him and he screamed a warning to his friends who were surfing about 40 feet away, then began paddling to shore on his board, blood streaming from his mangled leg.
Tanner paddled about 200 yards—a five-minute ordeal—before catching a wave and riding it in for the last 40 yards. Tanner, a critical care nurse in Legacy Emanuel Medical Center's intensive care unit, immediately began telling his rescuers what to do. He directed them to make a tourniquet from a T-shirt and, when that wasn't tight enough, he told them to make another out of the leash from his board. He also told them to cut off his wet suit so paramedics could start an IV when they arrived. The rescue helicopter flew him to Legacy Emanuel, where he required three surgeries. As he recovers, Tanner hopes other surfers can learn from his experience. All surfers should know how to tie a tourniquet and know their blood type, he says—and a thick wet suit definitely doesn't hurt. "I wore the thickest wet suit that they sell," he says. "That wet suit quite possibly saved my life."