Oprah hadn’t called Todd Endris before it happened. Good Morning America had never sent flowers. Rip Curl never offered any free neoprene.
Getting bit by a white shark, it turns out, has changed the 24-year-old Marina man’s life. In their own way, the two months since the attack have been almost as strange and eventful as the now-famous day at Marina Beach when the water turned red and a surf leash served as a leg-saving tourniquet.
The most recent turn of events took place when Inside Edition bought the rights to his story for several thousand dollars. The terms of the deal included a stipulation that Endris not contribute anything to a piece published before Thursday, Nov. 8. That meant I couldn’t complete this story until recently, despite my familiarity with Endris. We’ve gone to school and surfed together for six years – you could say he’s my “chum.”
~ ~ ~
Aug. 28 was a full moon. It was also Endris’ father’s birthday and a day that the Monterey Bay Aquarium captured a white shark.
Early that morning, Nick Modisette, a common friend of Endris and I, was harvesting kelp for the Monterey Abalone Company when he saw a white shark. He recalls it being about as big as his 14-foot boat, but its size didn’t rattle him nearly as much as its location – not far from Marina Beach, one of our crew’s favorite surf spots.
When Endris got to the beach, the waves were chest high, the tide was going out and surfers gravitated to the sand bar with the best waves. Moments later, dolphins began splashing around.
The shark came from the beach side, plowing into the bottom of Endris’ board and pitching the 190-pound surfer into the air. The surrounding riders immediately sprint-paddled to shore. Then, before Endris knew what was happening, the second bite came. Jaws open, the shark surged again from below, bringing scores of razor-edged teeth into Endris’ right torso, again lifting him up and out of the water. As he frantically tried to jab the shark’s eyes with his fist, the shark bit further forward, again tearing flesh with triangular teeth. With his body still in the shark’s mouth, Endris remembers being dragged underwater briefly. Suddenly, though, the shark let go, only to attack a third time, biting his right thigh. This time, Endris says, he managed to land a blow: “I scissor-kicked it in the face,” he says.
Meanwhile Joe Jansen, a San Diego surfer, lurked just outside the attack zone, in shallow enough water to be safe. After the third bite, he boldly paddled into the blood bath to help. Endris says that with Jansen’s encouragement, he managed to catch a wave in.
Fellow surfers Brian Simpson and Wes Williams ran to Endris on the sand and applied direct pressure to the massive wound, pushing their full weight behind their knees and wrapping surf leashes above the punctured area.
“I was the luckiest guy to have those three out there,” Endris says. There was other luck at work: The shark’s teeth came a millimeter from his pleural cavity and two millimeters from his femoral artery – a rupture of either would’ve led to certain death. Instead, paramedics arrived and called for a helicopter to take him to Stanford Hospital.
~ ~ ~
Endris would lose half the blood in his body. Doctors sewed up the huge wounds with more than 500 stitches and 200 staples. The bill surpassed $250,000; fortunately his deductible was $3,500.
Meanwhile, the circus that would define his next two months was underway. At the hospital, paparazzi disguised themselves and claimed to be family. Other journalists prematurely reported that he was in stable condition.
When friends and family went to visit “Shark Boy,” as Endris now calls himself, he was eerily pale from the blood loss. Best friend Jim Doran was stunned enough to fall down. “I passed out when I saw him,” he says. “He kept mumbling, ‘Fish bite, the fish got me.’ ”
Endris’ mom was busy fielding hundreds of phone calls. Most came from opportunistic individuals at surf companies and various media outlets, including Oprah Winfrey, who issued her condolences and asked if Endris would like to be on her show.
The gregarious Endris came to embrace the many sudden opportunities. Sharkbait Surfwax gives him more wax than he can use. The “Shark” watch on his wrist was a freebie from Freestyle. Imperial Motion clothing company supplies him with new clothes. GSI, the maker of the surfboard he rode on the day of the attack, has promised to send him a paddleboard worth $2,000. Other sponsors include Quicksilver and Volcom. Most calls go to his new publicist.
Even some of surfing’s biggest names have felt the draw. Endris ran into one of the stars of Endless Summer II, Pat O’Connell, at Boost Mobile Pro Surf Contest in San Clemente. “ ‘Let me know what you want,’ ” Endris recalls him saying. “ ‘You surf up north so you probably need a 5-millimeter wetsuit.’ ”
When Endris went to the Surfer Poll Award Ceremony, he hung with eight-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater. “We’re good buddies,” Endris jokes.
“Girls like Shark Boy”
Endris, who currently is struggling in his gig as an aquarium builder, says he’s starting a new group, International Shark Attack Research Fund, to gather money to develop an electronic shark repellant made specifically for surfers.
Then there’s still other opportunities. “Girls like Shark Boy,” he says. “They like me more now. I guess chicks dig scars.”
~ ~ ~
Six-foot-three-inch Todd Endris has long been an aggressive surfer, as psyched about waves as he is about protecting his turf. Two years ago he appeared on Judge Mathis for crumpling an unwelcome surfer’s license plate.
A run-in with the real resident at Marina has softened his territorial ferociousness. I sense in him a more accepting attitude toward new faces, likely because one, San Diego’s Jansen, helped save his life. Another change has taken place: Endris, who often surfed alone in the past, says that’ll never happen again.
Consequently, Endris was joined by friends when he returned to Marina Beach about two weeks ago. He pulled on a new wetsuit from Rip Curl and lept into the water. He admits he was frightened.
“Surfing Marina for the first time was scary,” he says.
Endris, who still surfs the spot almost daily, acknowledges other changes that have taken place – and stops short of enjoying what has happened.
“You can’t be happy or sad,” he says. “Good things have come out of it. Some things have gone downhill.”
More than anything, he realizes, those “things that have gone downhill” – like the fact that his aquarium gigs have fallen off – don’t bother him much.
“I don’t give a fuck about anything [minor] any more,” he says.
At an October “Shark Survival Party” at Adventures by the Sea in Monterey, he was in good spirits, posing for pictures with men that saved his life, wearing a new O’Neill shirt. Later, Endris and others smacked around a blue and white piñata. It was shaped like a white shark.