Del Mar

Shark that bit swimmer in Del Mar was a great white, expert confirms

Caleb Adams was bitten by a shark while swimming with a group in Del Mar on June 2. He survived the attack

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A shark that bit a 46-year-old man while he was swimming with a group in Del Mar last month was identified as a great white, officials confirmed.

Dr. Chris Lowe, the director of the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, said the state biologist tested DNA taken from the bite marks on Caleb Adams' wetsuit to determine the species.

"It's not really surprising that it was a white shark. We kind of anticipated that based on the type of bite and the magnitude of the bite," Lowe said.

Lowe says the great white shark — being one of the largest species of sharks — has a unique bite in terms of its size and extent of injuries, adding that other species like soupfin sharks or leopard sharks that have smaller teeth and rarely bite people.

Based on the measurements of the bite mark, the shark is approximately 9 feet in length, which is still considered the size of a juvenile white shark, according to Lowe.

Adams was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla immediately after the attack on June 2 to treat significant wounds to his torso and left hand and arm.

He was swimming with a group of about a dozen who regularly meet to train in Del Mar. Around 9 a.m., he was about 100 yards from the 17th Street lifeguard tower north of Powerhouse Park when the shark bit him, the city of Del Mar said.

"It was a strong hit to my body. I didn't feel more of a pain or a crushing, but I knew I had been hit by a shark," Adams said in an exclusive interview that aired on "TODAY." "I tussled with the animal for what was seconds."

Jenna Veal, a friend of the victim who was just feet away from the attack, told "TODAY" that the victim punched the shark in the face.

"He was incredibly conscious and brave. I mean, he truly fought for his life on multiple fronts today, from the fact that he got bumped by the shark and bit, and then he punched it in the face, and then he was able to still call for help," the eyewitness said. "Then when we got all the way onto shore, he was able to respond to questions. Where we were, what the date was. He said, 'Could you call my wife? Here's her phone number.'"

One of the witnesses who was in the water when a shark attacked a swimmer off the coast of Del Mar described the tense moments. The 46-year-old swimmer was bit several times on Sunday morning, but the injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. NBC 7's Kelvin Henry reports on June 3, 2024.

Lifeguards closed a stretch of Del Mar Beach after the attack. The signs came down 48 hours later, which is standard policy after incidents like these.

Zach Merson, a field technician at the Shark Lab, said Del Mar beach is a nursey habitat for juvenile white sharks, so they tend to gather there for long periods of time.

Since 2020, the lab has tagged about 60 juvenile white sharks in this area. About four of those sharks were detected around the time of the incident on June 2, Merson said.

What to do if you see a shark

White sharks are around people all the time and usually ignore them, Lowe said. Despite this, he says swimmers should follow some rules.

"Stay together. Stay in a group. Only visit guarded beaches," he said. "Try to be careful around dawn and dust. That's when the juvenile white sharks may be feeding more often, and you don't want them to make a mistake."

He also offered the following tips to keep you safe if you see a shark while in the water:

  • Keep your eyes on the shark. Let it know that you see it
  • Turn your surfboard toward the shark
  • If you lose sight of the shark, look behind you
  • If the shark bites you, hit its nose and eyes to get it to release
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