Shark bites in Connor Lyon's kayak.

A real life nightmare unfolded in the waters off of the Gaviota Coast yesterday morning. Twenty-two year old Connor Lyon, a Santa Barbara surfer and fisherman and all around ocean-lover, was violently thrown from his kayak by an attacking shark roughly an hour after sunrise. Though all parties involved (except for the kayak) escaped the incident unharmed, the sequence of events is the stuff of true terror. “There was a point, when my ‘yak was flipping over, that I had this perfect view of a fucking fatty black eye of a big shark and his mouth just fully clamped on the bow of my boat and thrashing.” recalled Lyon excitedly. “It was such an unreal experience and happened so fast, I didn’t really have time to be scared.”

Connor Lyon models kayak battle wounds.
Ethan Stewart

With hopes of landing a Yellowtail Tuna or a White Seabass, Lyon and two buddies, Matt Maheri and Mason Reepmaker, set out on kayaks north of Gaviota State Beach under the cover of darkness Tuesday morning. They paddled out beyond the kelp beds and started fishing for squid to use as live bait later in the morning. According to Lyon, there were a couple squid boats and a handful of other fishermen already working the area. “There was tons of bait in the water and lots of activity.” said Connor, “There were sea lions all over the place and they were acting pretty crazy.” After a hour or so, Lyon drifted into calmer waters and started getting his cod jig ready to drop in the water. That is when things got interesting. “Something just slammed my kayak, man. Slammed me so hard. But before I could even really think about what was happening, the kayak started shaking back and forth. That’s when I realized there was a big shark biting the front of my boat.”

Lyon, who is a powerfully built 6’3’‘ and 190 pounds, was clinging to his kayak for dear life as the shark shook it violently for several seconds, actually lifting the boat a bit out of the water and turning it on its side. “When the shark finally let go, the kayak was almost vertical on its side and I tumbled in.” explained Lyon. “But I got back on that thing as quick as I could. Just full on jumped on top of the upside down ‘yak and tried to keep everything out of the water.” It was right around then that he started to shout for help. Soon enough a near-by boat came to his rescue and he was able to scramble aboard to certain safety. “I got on board and was just so pumped that I made it. It was basically like getting the biggest fattiest barrel of your life where, if you fall, you know you are going to die but, instead, you come through unscathed.” summed up Lyon excitedly.

Eventually, Connor and his friends opted to paddle back to shore, towing the slowly sinking kayak behind them. According to witnesses, the shark was approximately 13’ long. And, after taking a tape measurer to the bite marks, the width of the bite was 18’‘. “I was more shocked than afraid. I mean, I feel pretty chill right now about it all. I am probably going to go surfing this morning.” said Lyon just 24 hours after his run-in with a toothy apex predator. “It’s important for people to know, I’m not mad at this shark and I certainly don’t blame him for biting my ‘yak. I was out there in his home. I don’t want people to start hating on him or any other sharks.”


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