A surfer was attacked by a shark Wednesday morning off Smith Point County Park in Shirley, Newsday TV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone

This story was reported and written by Matthew Chayes, Vera Chinese, Craig Schneider and John Valenti

Shawn Donnelly said he was lying on his surfboard Wednesday morning when a shark bit his left calf, striking with enough force to drive the 6-foot-2, 210-pound man into the water.

He saw its brown dorsal fin coming around for more, so he hopped on his board and started punching furiously at its snout, Donnelly, 41, of Mastic Beach, recalled hours later.

“Every thought in my head was, ‘Paddle into shore,’ ” he said.

The 7:30 a.m. attack marked the second at Smith Point County Park in Shirley in 10 days and another in a series of shark-related incidents on Long Island this summer. It was the same stretch of water where lifeguard Zack Gallo was bitten by a shark on the hand and chest on July 3. 

Donnelly said he was aware of the recent incidents when he entered the water Wednesday, but they weren't going to stop him. He's been surfing there since he was 12 and goes several days a week before work as an attorney, he said.

"It was a calculated risk that I got wrong," he said.

Wednesday morning, he was lying flat on his board with his legs dangling off the sides, perhaps 12 yards off the beach in water about 7 feet deep, he said. 

After the shark struck him, he said, he could see its dorsal fin and the top of its spotted brown body. He thinks it was a sand tiger shark, perhaps 5 feet long.

"I got back on my board. He came under me on my right. The water was sandy. I couldn’t even see my board,” Donnelly said.

After punching the predator away, he caught a lucky break — literally. 

“I … paddled like hell. After a couple of strokes, a wave broke behind me and pushed me to shore. … I thought, 'I can’t believe what just happened.'”

From threshers to great whites, here are some of the sharks you might find off LI. Credit: Gabriella Vukelic / Newsday

When he got out of the water, “I did a quick check. I thought maybe he didn’t get me. Then I saw the blood running down my leg and one clear bite mark,” Donnelly said.

The beach was empty and no lifeguard was on duty, he said. He walked to a campground check-in booth and saw a park ranger.

"I was bit by a shark," he told him.

The ranger, he recalled, looked at his leg and said, "Yes, you have."

Donnelly was treated and released from Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue. He has a 2-inch wound on his calf, he said.

The park, which was closed for swimming all morning, reopened to bathers about 1 p.m.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Long Island's relationship with sharks has changed.

“I think it is an indication that what we’re looking at is something of a new normal in that sharks … are closer to shore than they’ve been,” Bellone said.

Later Wednesday, a swimmer on Fire Island was bitten on the hand by a shark, according to Suffolk police.. 

In late June, a man swimming off Jones Beach was bitten on the foot, though Nassau County officials said it was not clear if that incident involved a shark. Davis Park Beach on Fire Island was closed to bathers last week after a shark sighting near shore, officials said.

While shark attacks off Long Island are rare, officials are taking measures to ensure people's safety, with lifeguards monitoring waters with Jet Skis, drones and paddleboards

Island beachgoers had varying reactions Wednesday.

Bryan Lewis, 57, of Riverhead, said he had no qualms about returning to the water.

“That’s the chance you take,” he said. “It’s the ocean. It’s their habitat.”

Jeanine Frazier, 36, of Coram, was on her way to the beach with her husband and two children when she got word of the attack. While the family usually goes in the ocean, on Wednesday they were happier to stay on shore.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “It’s not a safe place.” 

Experts told Newsday last week that the recent attacks continue what was described as unprecedented escalations for an area that records show had averaged about one attack per decade for the past century. 

They said some of that increase is likely due to conservation efforts, which have helped clean local waters and, in turn, have led to a resurgence of Atlantic menhaden — a baitfish that attracts predators including sharks.

Donnelly, for his part, said he'll be back surfing there after a week of healing.

"I don't begrudge him. He was just doing his job — being a shark," he said.

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