Shark attack victim punched it in the face, witness says

A man survived a shark attack by punching it in the face before being rescued by other swimmers at a popular California beach, a witness has said.

The 46-year-old was in the water with a group at Del Mar City Beach near San Diego when he was bitten on the torso, left arm and hand about 90m from shore.

One of the swimmers, Jenna Veal, was behind the victim during the attack and told Sky's US partner network NBC News she heard him scream for help.

"He punched it in the face. He punched it in the nose," she told NBC's TODAY show.

"I do know he had a gash on his hand from a shark's tooth."

The group took the man back to shore where a passing emergency department doctor stopped to help.

Ms Veal said there was a "massive all-hands-on-deck movement of support" - adding the victim remained conscious throughout and is expected to be okay.

Another eyewitness told the show: "When we saw the guy, like, swim back it was really shocking."

Lifeguards were setting up on the beach for the day when they were alerted.

The victim - an ocean swimmer who regularly trains at the beach - suffered significant but not life-threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital for treatment, city officials said.

Almost the entire stretch of the beach was closed after Sunday morning's attack.

One of the swimmers was equipped with a tourniquet, although it's unclear whether it was used, Jon Edelbrock, the city's lifeguard chief, told the show.

A drone and a boat were deployed to look for the shark afterwards with no success.

"The water visibility was really poor," said Mr Edelbrock.

"You just can't see anything that's moving through the water column at all. The exact moment of the incident was really the only interaction with, or sighting of, the shark."

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Sharks including great whites come close to swimmers, surfers and paddlers almost every day in the waters off Del Mar and the Torrey Pines beach of San Diego, experts say. There have been only 20 unprovoked attacks recorded in the county since 1926, according to the International Shark Attack File database.

The San Diego waters are considered aggregation sites where sharks frequently feed. Shark attacks are less likely in such areas because the animals are used to being in the water with humans and so are unlikely to confuse them for more typical prey such as sea lions.

"There are a lot of sharks there and a lot of people around each other every single day. So we're not really sure why this particular event occurred," Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, told Reuters news agency.

His team has tagged 225 juvenile white sharks and monitors their movements.

"It could have been a new shark to the area that was coming in and wasn't used to people and made a mistake," he said.