Shark Attack on Al Brenneka 1976 Lemon Shark Attack

Delray Beach Florida

Your name: Al Brenneka

Age when bitten:19 Height 6’ 1” Weight: 180 lbs. Sex: Male

Date of Attack:11/25/76



Did anyone see the shark before the attack? No How many sharks were involved in the attack? 1 that bit me, but about 10 other sharks were in the area darting around under the other surfers following them to shore and away from me. Size of the shark involved: 16” wide head – 12” from my face, other surfers estimated it to be about 7’, but that was the average size of sharks in the school. Species: Yellowish, Light Brown was thought to be a Lemon shark.



Duration of the initial strike: The time it takes surfers to paddle to shore from 150’ offshore. Duration of the entire attack: Same as above. The number of strikes on the victim:1 Did the shark shake the victim? Yes Did the shark push or pull the victim through the water? Pulled, pushed and shaken. Did the shark attempt to submerge with the victim? The shark did submerge with the victim. Did the victim fight back? Yes If yes, how did the victim fight back? First by pushing off the bottom and pulling the surfboard under my left arm to stay afloat. If yes, what was the shark’s reaction? The shark started shaking me. Did the victim fight back? Yes If yes, how did the victim fight back? By kicking the shark. If yes, what was the shark’s reaction? Kept on shaking and sucking my arm further in. Did the victim fight back? Yes If yes, how did the victim fight back? By holding the shark in a leg lock and refusing to let the shark go until it let go of me. If yes, what was the shark’s reaction? It let go.

The behavior of the shark during the attack (deliberate, frenzied, etc): Mean and nasty Behavior of the shark after the final strike: Disappeared as quick as it appeared. The outcome of the attack: Final outcome – loss of right arm 1” below the elbow with extensive tissue loss 3” above the elbow.

The attack –

I had just ridden a nice wave and was paddling back out to the take-off location. When I reached about the halfway mark I felt something near my right arm. Instinctively I began to pull my arm out of the water. The next thing I knew I was underwater and could feel the sandy bottom under my feet and the side of the surfboard with the tip of my fingers. I had no idea as to what had just happened, but I knew I needed to get to the surface. In one motion I pushed off the bottom and pulled the surfboard under my armpit. When the salt water cleared from my eyes there was a 16 to 18 inch wide yellowish colored shark head with my arm down its throat. The shark began thrashing its head from side to side ripping off flesh with each toss of its head. I couldn’t let go of the surfboard to punch at the shark or poke at its eyes my only option was to kick at it. As I kicked at the shark, the shark just kept on thrashing its head from side to side removing more and more flesh. When I could see about 5 inches of flesh had been removed from my arm and kicking at the shark was doing absolutely no good. I had to stop this shark from thrashing back and forth before it removed my entire arm. My thought at this time was to grab a hold of the shark with my legs and hold onto it until it let go of me. I wasn’t able to wrap my legs completely around the shark, but I was able to squeeze my knees together at the shark’s gill area, the shark let go and was gone. At this time I thought it took the arm I so desperately tried to keep.

The Rescue –

I began looking around me to gather my bearings and look for the other surfers headed my way to help me back to shore. Of course the entire time I’m battling with the shark I was screaming shark and help. There were no other surfers around anymore they were all already on shore. I was hanging onto the board screaming for someone to come and help. As I was screaming for them to come and help they were screaming for me to get back on the board and paddle in. They said there were sharks all over the place and no one was coming out. “You have to make it to shore on your own before the sharks come back and get you again”.

The Self Rescue-

I slid back onto the board and starting paddling with my left arm when I went to use the right arm which I thought was gone, it was still there. I couldn’t move it so I reached over with my left arm and pulled the shark bitten arm onto the board. When I did the blood was coming out with such force I could hear it and could hardly see because as it was hitting the flesh and going all over. Paddling with one arm was not making much progress so I moved back a little on the board and started kicking with my feet and paddling with my left arm. The blood flow was slowing down and my ability to hold my head up, paddle, and kick all at the same time was becoming impossible and I began to fade in and out of conscious.

(One of scariest things of the entire experience is as you’re headed toward shore and look for shark fins headed your way for another attack.)

Luckily the waves and wind were blowing me towards shore and the little bit of kicking and paddling I was able to do. I made it within 15 feet from shore, looked up at all the people just standing there in shock and said that’s it if someone doesn’t come out and help me now then I’m going to die right here. Two other surfers from down the beach that hadn’t witnessed the attack came running down the beach to see what all the action was and they jumped in and pulled me onto the beach. Soon I heard a loud noise and opened my eyes to see a helicopter landing on the beach. It was a 3-minute helicopter ride to the hospital when I arrived I was DOA.

My body was completely drained of blood, my heart stopped beating twice, both my lungs collapsed and had salt water in them, It took 20 units of blood fill me up and stop the bleeding, Four cut downs were performed – 2 on my left arm, 1 on each of my ankles. There was not even enough time for them to do a cross match on my blood type. Gangrene had set in because no blood or very little blood flow was getting to the arm. A week after the attack I was finally stable enough to be shipped to another hospital where I believed they could save my limb, but when I got there the arm was history. In the attempts to save as much of the arm as possible they cut off the bad tissue, cut the bone below the elbow. Then had to cut away more bad tissue days later and cover it with skin off my thigh.



While I was battling with my shark another surfer had a shark hit his board.

When I asked one of the other surfers why they never came back out to help me he said. There were so many sharks swimming around under them in frantic darting motions and they followed us to shore. I was too scared to put a toe in the water.