Long Island Lifeguard Who Fought Off Shark With Bare Hands Recalls the Harrowing Story

by Lauren Boisvert

On Sunday, July 3, Long Island lifeguard Zach Gallo found himself in the midst of a terrifying situation: being bitten by a shark. Gallo was taking part in an ocean training exercise at Smith Point Beach, portraying the victim, when he felt a sharp pain in his hand.

“That’s when I pulled it to my chest, and survival instinct kicked in,” Gallo recalled to the New York Post. “I ripped back and just started hammer-punching, and I felt the rubber texture of the head. It felt like the size of a basketball.”

The shark was about 5 feet, but it’s unclear what kind of shark it was. The shark thrashed in the water as Gallo punched, and the tussle only lasted a few seconds, according to the lifeguard. “I just ‘boom, boom, boomed,’ and on the third connect, the shark flipped. I saw the whole body flip and swim in the other direction,” he said. “And it was that moment where I realized that we were dealing with a shark.”

Gallo said he knew the other lifeguards were still in danger, so he shouted for everyone to get out of the water. “Once I saw that and felt the tail hit me in the chest and arm, I instructed the other guards that I was in the water with, ‘Get to shore! Get to shore! Get to shore!’ I probably swam faster than I ever had in my life,” he shared.

He was bitten in the hand and the chest and only required a few stitches in his hand. Other lifeguards entered the water to help him and provide emergency medical care.

Long Island Lifeguard Recalls Being Attacked By Shark, Shares Gratitude for Fellow Lifeguards on Scene

“I’m grateful that it was a minor injury,” he continued. “It could have been a lot worse, and I’m just very grateful that I walked out of the water on my own. I’m grateful that I received EMT services right away. I’m grateful that I work at a beach with the best lifeguards in the world.” 

Gallo’s wife, Caitlin Murray, also spoke to the New York Post about the incident. She praised her husband for his calm demeanor, and for making sure his fellow lifeguards also got to safety. “I’m just proud he had the strength to tell everyone to get out, too. I’m so glad he walked away with a scratch, but he’s the best guard to pick on because he’s the biggest dude on the beach, I’m very proud.”

Zach Gallo said he has no hard feelings toward the shark, and that the incident won’t stop him from going in the water in the future. “We are visitors in their world,” he said. “This was just a curious animal. I have to be out of work for 10 days, but I’m looking forward to getting back into the water.”