Los Osos woman surfs for first time Sunday since close call with a shark

A close call with a great white shark isn't stopping Elinor Dempsey from surfing again — on Sunday just after 9:30 a.m., the 54-year-old paddled out for the first time since her shark encounter Aug. 29, with a grin that could be seen from the shore.

"It's exciting — I've been really wanting to get back out into the water," she said before venturing out into the waves north of Morro Rock. "I am a little nervous, though. It's the first time I've actually been in the water past the knees since it happened — which is a long time for me."

The Los Osos woman made international news last month after a great white shark chomped on her surfboard while she was waiting for a wave off Morro Strand State Beach (known among surfers as "A-Beach").

That day, she was in the water for a little more than a half hour when she saw what she initially thought was a dolphin approach her from underwater and take a large bite out of the board, before swimming away. Witnesses at the scene said they saw her tumble off the board and into the water next to a shark fin.

Looking back, Dempsey said she temporarily blacked out, and didn't realize what was happening until she got back to the beach. That close call left her with some anxiety, for which she's currently undergoing cranial osteopathy treatments — massaging of the head and base of the spine to stimulate healing and calm patients who have suffered a traumatic ordeal.

"I had a bit more of a close encounter than what I actually remembered," she said Sunday. "I'm a lot calmer than I was that first week. I was still really in shock. That was kind of a wild experience, to have that."

Dempsey wasn't physically injured in the attack, although her red surfboard still sports a 13½-inch-wide half-moon hole edged in teeth markings.

That board is currently sitting in Dempsey's garage, waiting to be displayed in her house.

In the meantime, Dempsey's employer, identity theft protection and credit monitoring services firm TransUnion, donated money to buy her a new board, which she used Sunday.

"They were worried about what happened and wanted to get me a new board," she said, holding up the blue and white surfboard. "They've been really good to me. I'm really proud to work for the company, and anxious to get into the water with this."

After about two hours out in the waves, Dempsey ran back to shore with a smile on her face and only three words on her lips: "That was exciting!"

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