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Latter-day Saint teen surfer tells about shark encounter on Florida beach

Video shows shark approach, bite the surfer

Doyle Nielsen, left, and his brother Logan were surfing on Sept. 9 at New Smyrna Beach in Florida when a shark bit Doyle’s arm.
Doyle Nielsen, left, and his brother Logan were surfing on Sept. 9 at New Smyrna Beach in Florida when a shark bit Doyle’s arm.
Lizzy Nielsen

Doyle Nielsen was so focused on catching a big Florida surfing wave that he didn’t have time to be scared when bitten by a shark on Sept. 9.

The 16-year-old member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Georgia, suffered a shark bite to his upper arm but was able to paddle safely to shore. The bite required nine stitches.

“I calmed down and couldn’t believe what had just happened,” Nielsen told the Deseret News. “It could have been much worse, and I walked away without any major, longterm injuries.”

Less than two weeks later, the Nielsen family is feeling blessed that Doyle escaped with minor injuries. He hopes to hit the waves again soon, his mother, Lizzy Nielsen said.

“He’s doing great. (The wound) is pretty much just a big, yucky scab now,” his mother said. “He got away. Luckily, it wasn’t nearly as bad as most of the other shark bites we’ve heard about.”

The Nielsen family lives in Woodstock, Georgia, near Atlanta. Lizzy Nielsen brought her sons to New Smyrna Beach in Florida for a little surfing trip after Hurricane Larry caused big waves along the east coast. Doyle was bitten on the first day of their trip.

The dorsal fin swam up behind Doyle and took a bite of his arm as he paddled towards a wave. The encounter lasted seconds.

Lizzy Nielsen didn’t see what happened because she down the beach taking photos of Doyle’s brother. Logan. She was walking back when she found Doyle with a lifeguard, surrounded by a crowd of people. She thought perhaps there was a sea turtle or horseshoe crab in the sand.

A lifeguard treats Doyle Nielsen after he was bit by a shark while surfing in Florida on Sept. 9.
A lifeguard treats Doyle Nielsen after he was bit by a shark while surfing in Florida on Sept. 9.
Lizzy Neilsen

“He said he got bit by a shark. I did not believe him. He was just standing there, not crying. I thought he was just joking,” she said. “Then I realized it was true. He had a big old gash in his arm. The lifeguard wrapped it up and we went to the hospital. He got stitches and it turned out alright.”

An observer happened to catch the Doyle’s shark attack on video and shared it on Instagram.

Every time Lizzy Nielsen watches the “scary” video she feels grateful. She knows that Doyle received divine protection.

“He had angels watching out for him,” she said.

Her son agrees.

“I know that I have a purpose, that God has a plan for each of us and everyone experiences different trials,” Doyle said.

Teen surfer Doyle Nielsen receives treatment at a hospital in Florida following a shark attack on Sept. 9, with his brother Logan nearby.
Teen surfer Doyle Nielsen receives treatment at a hospital in Florida following a shark attack on Sept. 9, with his brother Logan nearby.
Lizzy Nielsen

Once the video was circulated online, Doyle was interviewed by Good Morning America, CNN and other news outlets. He hasn’t been shy about sharing his story.

“The first couple of days he was in pain, and that wasn’t very much fun,” Lizzy Nielsen said. “But now he’s having fun. It’s like he’s getting his fun reward.”

Florida led the world in shark attacks in 2020, according to CNN, but shark attacks and bites are rare, according to a 2020 USA Today article.

Doyle Nielsen surfs a wave at New Smyrna Beach in Florida on Sept. 9.
Doyle Nielsen surfs a wave at New Smyrna Beach in Florida on Sept. 9. The 16-year-old was bit by a shark later that day.
Lizzy Nielsen