Standup paddler’s shark attack on Cape Cod estimated 11 footer in 3′ of water

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Cleveland Bigelow has a lot to be grateful for. He’s suffered a near fatal heart attack on the water two years ago, was chased by a 3-foot fin back in 2005 and, most recently, literally had his standup paddle surfboard bit out from under him and lives to tell the tale.

This is the story of what happened on Cape Cod when Cleveland a.k.a ‘Cleve’ survived an attack by a great white in three feet of water last week.

Cleve Bigelow III shark bite Cape Cod
Old timer Cleve Bigelow stands with his Kings paddleboard clearly marked as a mistaken lunch by a great white.

Shark Attack on Cape Cod

It was just another ordinary day for 69-year-old sup surfer Cleveland Bigelow.  Or was it?  Is any day ordinary for this man who’s had more than his fair share of fortune fending off death more than once?

It was Wednesday morning around 9:30AM.  In New York, most of us were frothing over the building swell coming in from Hurricane Gert somewhere blessedly off shore.  That’s when Cleveland Bigelow decided to paddle out.  He launched his 8’4 King’s Accelerator off the beach at Marconi’s on Cape Cod and walked/prone paddled it out to the sand bar.  Arriving on the sand bar in about 3-4 feet of water, the 69-year-young surfer began to get to his feet for his standup session.

“And that was when I got blasted,” he said.

He had one hand on the deck of the board, the other on the handle of his paddle and was shimmying to his feet when he was attacked by an 11′ great white shark.

“It was like being on a bike getting hit by a truck,” Cleve reports.

The board hit him so hard it hurt like hell.  His first thought was, “What in the world?”

And then he looked down, at the blood running down his shin from the board slamming into him and a light dawned.  Shark attack.

Cleve Bigelow III shark bite shaka
Cleve considers the bite marks on his Kings sup realizing how quickly life can shift. Talk about staying in the moment!

Another day, another shark incident for Cleve Bigelow

Strangely enough, this was not his first incident with a great white off the shores of Cape Cod.  In 2005, he was on the outer beach, the only surfer out when a sea of Mad Max shortboarders arrived led by Cleve’s friend Brendan McCray on the beach and started whistling.  Cleveland looked up at where they were pointing and saw what he describes as a 3 foot fin about 50 feet away coming right at him.

“I was paddling faster than Kai Lenny,” he says of the earlier incident.  A friend of his on the beach that day took a photo showing the enormity of the shark.

“You saw the fin, the tail … and the shadow in between was like a submarine,” says 2X winner Cleve.

Cleve Bigelow III shark bite drone
Aerial footage from this week on the Cape courtesy of Brendan Bucklay. They’re out there. The question is, where are YOU?

3 cheers for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy!

This week’s attack was documented and reported by marine biologists with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.  Teams of scientists measured the bite marks from Cleveland’s board.  According to their estimates, the shark that attacked Cleve was around 11 feet long … err…  in 3 feet of water.

Shark sightings are common enough on the Cape where shark migratory patterns and currents bring them to the waters to feed on the seal population in late summer before the mammoth creatures begin their long trip south to warmer waters.  Seal maulings are not uncommon and beaches are often closed with signs posted about the presence of sharks.

Cape Cod surfers know the risks, but the waves are goooooood and the crowds are small.  Hence, Cleveland and his tribe of warriors tend to paddle out more often than not.

Cleve Bigelow III shark bite heart monitor
Since his heart attack two year’s ago, Cleveland has had a heart monitor. This is the reading from his attack last Wednesday. Looks like his heart is working pretty good!

The future for this sup surfer is pretty clear

Has he been back in the water since the attack?  Certainly.  Has he made any great changes since his close encounter last week?  Cleve reports he’s staying farther away from the seals at this point and,

“Maybe surfing til dark … not so much.”

The GOOD news is, Cleve is getting his board replaced by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy museum since the teeth marks are so prominently displayed on the board’s rails.  Kings Paddle Sports has reached out to him and, together, they are planning the design of Cleve’s new standup paddle board.

Cleveland Bigelow III shark attack Kings standup paddle surfboard
Back in the water? Hell, yes! Cleve is looking forward to getting his new board because now his old one has a … ummmm… new DENT in it.

Shark culling threatened in wake of attack

The attack originally mitigated a call for shark culling by local lawmakers, but many Cape Cod residents stood up against the practice.  Locals have created a strong force to stop the call for culling and are collecting signatures online to make their voices heard.

Cleveland Bigelow has signed the petition.  “It is an inhumane practice and barbaric torture,” says Cleve.  “We are in their world.  They aren’t doing anything wrong.”

“It’s a seal problem; it’s not a shark problem,” he reports.

Sign the petition:  Say NO to shark culls

If you would like to add your voice to the call to stop the culling, you can sign the petition HERE and/or you can contact the Great Atlantic Shark Conservancy for more information.  And give them a thumb’s up for picking up the cost of Cleveland’s board!

About the author

Evelyn O'Doherty is a standup paddle racer, surfer and yoga teacher from the East End of Long Island in New York. Her passion for watersports drew her to leave a teaching career to pursue her athletic endeavors as a sup instructor, racing coach, sup racer, and now, as online editor for Standup Journal. Evelyn lives in East Hampton NY in the Springs area where she has daily access to the water to train and teach. When the swell is working, you can find her in Montauk rattling around in her Ford Ranger surfboards hanging out the back headed for points East.

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