— When Lucas Ransom and Matthew Garcia waded into the heavy surf with their bodyboards to challenge 6- to 8-foot waves, the Northern California college students knew there was a possibility — albeit a remote one — that they could be attacked by sharks that feed on seals, sea lions and other marine mammals.
“I heard they were joking about that. Every surfer kind of has that in the back of your head,” Travis Ransom, Lucas’ older brother, told TODAY’s Ann Curry on Monday. “You go out there to enjoy life and celebrate it. You don’t really think about it.”
But instead of celebrating life, Matthew Garcia witnessed the violent death of his 19-year-old friend that day. Despite Garcia’s attempts to save him, Lucas Ransom quickly bled to death after a shark estimated at 16 to 18 feet long mauled his left leg.
‘Help me, dude!’
According to Garcia, the attack about 100 yards off Surf Beach came without warning and turned perfectly blue water red in an instant.
“When the shark hit him, he just said, ‘Help me, dude!’ ” Garcia told The Associated Press. “He knew what was going on.”
Ransom’s mother, Candace, told Curry during a live interview on Monday that she was not thinking about sharks when she implored Lucas, a junior studying chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, not to go “boogie-boarding” without studying the area more closely first.
Because of the swells Lucas Ransom was telling his mother about, she was concerned that her son with “sparkling eyes” and a “smile that would melt your heart” might drown in a strong undertow or suffer a “broken neck” from a fall off the board.
“He was so excited. He said, ‘Mama, there are 10-foot waves,’ ” Candace Ransom said. “I was concerned for his safety … He was in an area where he had never been before.”
Lucas, who had planned to surf for just a short time before heading for classes at the nearby UC Santa Barbara campus, told his mother not to worry.
“He said, ‘Mom, I’ll be fine. I’ll give you a call when I get out,’ ” Candace Ransom told Curry.
Despite being aware of the risk of shark attack, Lucas, as a certified lifeguard and longtime surfer, probably also knew that fatal attacks were also rare.
Experts say that sharks like the one that killed Ransom — most likely a great white — sometimes mistake surfers wearing dark wetsuits for the marine mammals they feed on.
Although he and Garcia joked the night before about the possibility one of them could be bitten by a shark, Ransom enjoyed the rush of adrenaline he got from surfing, water polo and other sports.
“He really loved living life to the fullest,” said his father, Matthew Ransom. “He just wanted to have fun, and he was safe about most things.”
Travis Ransom said he is certain that his younger brother got the thrill he was searching for in the surf before he was attacked without warning by the shark.
“It’s hard to put into words what you feel out there,” said Travis, who sometimes accompanied his brother surfing. “You are out with the ocean. Nothing else matters when you are riding the waves. It’s an amazing feeling … I know he felt it while he was out there before the event happened.”
Candace Ransom said she was “blessed” to have Lucas as her son, and regrets that he did not live long enough to realize his dreams of graduating from college next year and making a difference in other people’s lives.
Toward those goals, the family is looking into establishing a scholarship in Lucas’ name to fund tuition assistance for underprivileged students pursuing degrees in chemical engineering at the University of California.
The last known shark attack in the area where Lucas Ransom was killed was in 2008, when what was believed to be a great white bit a surfer’s board. The last fatal shark attack in the state was that same year, when a 66-year-old triathlete bled to death after a shark bit his legs.