VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - A Florida man surfing at New Smyrna Beach earlier this week was about to get back on his surfboard when a shark bit his face.
"I got bit when I was a little kid by a dog, and it kind of felt like that, but like a bear trap closing in on me," said Mark Sumsersett, 38. He was visiting from South Carolina on a surfing trip in Florida.
He said he was under the water and about to jump back on his board when he felt something bite his face. He didn't see the shark as he was underwater, so it's not known how big or small the marine animal was. Still, the bite marks on the side of his face and his chin are evident that much of his face was in the shark's mouth.
The shark let go shortly after the bite, he said, which is when he was able to get back to shore.
"It was definitely a fight or flight situation," he said.
A woman on shore helped him call 911 and get to the hospital.
"I was like, ‘What do you do?’" he said. "You don't know what to do when a shark bites you. This doesn't happen this often."
He received nearly two dozen stiches, he said, and was released shortly after. He's grateful that a scar or two may be the worst part of his shark encounter – considering what could have been the worst-case scenerio.
"God has a reason for me to be here. And that's to help other people on this earth," he said. I'm just so grateful."
It's the 7th reported shark bite in Volusia County in 2023, said Volusia County Beach Safety Captain A.J. Miller. He said that number is on par with what they usually see.
"They (sharks) grab a person by accident, realize you're not what they want. They let go and release," Miller said.
How can you know if a shark is near you?
There is no one specific answer, but Miller said there are some signs to look out for, including schools of fishing swimming near you, fish jumping out of the water, or pelicans swooping down into the water.
Experts also said that the high swells and rip currents from Hurricane Lee may also bring fish and other marine life closer to Florida beaches, which could – not always – mean sharks are not far behind.
Sumersett said he saw some sharks in the area the day before he was bit, but carried on as did dozens of other surfers taking advance of the surf.
"I saw one right by me. I saw him cruising through the waves at me," he said. I'm like,’What the heck? These guys out here don't even care. They're used to it,'" he said.
Still, Sumersett plans to hit the water as soon as he is able to.