Pilates Style
Leeanne Ericson Image Credit: Pilates Style
Leeanne Ericson Image Credit: Pilates Style

Pilates Versus The Shark

Leeanne Ericson, 39, turned to the method after a brutal attack that almost killed her.

Leeanne Ericson, as told to Beth Johnson 

When the great white shark ’s teeth tore into the back of my thigh, I screamed with a terror I never thought possible. In the time it took my boyfriend to turn his head towards the sound, I had already been dragged underwater.


April 29, 2017, was a gorgeous day at San Onofre State Beach in Southern California. While my boyfriend Dusty Phillips paddled out on his surfboard, I swam alongside him in my wetsuit and fins until we were in deep water, about 75 yards from the shoreline. I grew up a block from the beach in Oceanside, CA, about 30 minutes south of San Onofre, with ten siblings. Being in the water had always been my second home, and I was a really strong swimmer. If I had a bad day, a swim in the ocean always grounded me. I just loved it.

We were hanging out in the water, horsing around on Dusty’s board, when a set of waves appeared in the distance. I jumped back into the water so Dusty could go catch one, and started to swim back to shore.


Moments later, it felt as if razor blades were ripping into the back of my right thigh, and there was enormous pressure on my leg. I knew in a second that it was a shark, and it wasn’t letting go. I was folded over its body, with my leg in its mouth. The shark was dragging me down towards the bottom of the ocean so fast, trying to drown me.


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