Long-distance swimmer Steven Robles was passing from the Hermosa Beach pier to the Manhattan Beach pier just south of Santa Monica, California when a seven-foot great white shark started ripping into his side. The bite left Robles, 50, with gashes in his right side and a damaged artery near his thumb, resulting in a loss of sensation.

The incident happened Saturday morning near the Manhattan Beach pier, where a fisherman had dropped a line into the water no more than 40 minutes earlier. According to KCAL9, the shark had gotten hooked on the line for some time, before turning agitated and lashing out at nearby Robles. The California realtor says he saw the shark swimming straight toward him, his eyeballs locked directly on the animal’s as it struck.

“For a second, I thought this might be it,” Robles told KCAL9. “I was absolutely terrified. I never thought I would die in the ocean.”

Robles says he had the presence of mind — how, he doesn’t know — to grab hold of the shark’s nose and pry its mouth off his torso. Nearby swimmers and paddle boarders noticed Robles struggling and helped carry him to shore, where he received treatment for deep lacerations and a damaged thumb.

Officials told the news station that while fishing off the pier is not illegal, it is suspended until July 8. Robles says he’s lucky to be alive and only wishes the attack was taken more seriously by onlookers, who filmed the event and laughed at the possibility of a shark attack. “It wasn’t even close to funny,” he said. “This was me about to lose my life.”