Meet the Woman Who Fought a Great White Shark — and Won!

Rebecca Macatee - Author

Apr. 16 2020, Updated 2:20 p.m. ET

leeanne ericson shark week now
Source: Instagram

Surviving a shark attack is no easy feat, but thriving afterwards takes even more courage. Leeanne Ericson, the extraordinary woman featured on I Was Prey: Shark Week, knows this all too well.

The mother of three was attacked by a great white shark in 2017. So where is Leeanne Ericson now, and how did this Shark Week standout manage to fight a great white... and win? Here's everything you need to know.

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Where is Leeanne Ericson from Shark Week now? 

According to her Instagram, she's training to be a Pilates instructor at a top studio in Carlsbad, Calif. "It's incredible where I've come [since the attack]," she said in a 2019 interview with NBC7 San Diego. "I'm almost like where can I go now? What do I do now?" 

She surprised even her doctors with her mobility and strength. The shark bit off a significant chunk of Leeanne's leg, but through hard work and determination, she's regained the use of it. 

What happened when Leeanne was attacked by a shark?

On April 29, 2017, Leeanne joined her boyfriend, Dusty Phillips, in the water off San Onofre State Beach. The day started off peacefully, but when a great white shark grabbed hold of Leeanne, she knew exactly what was happening. 

"I felt it grab me and it pulled me down," she said in an interview with Good Morning America. "I just remember thinking about my kids and him [Dusty] and then trying to push the shark off of me."

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leeanne ericson shark week now boyfriend dusty
Source: Instagram

Leeanne's survival instincts kicked in. 

She saw something black, which she assumed was the shark's eye. "And I just started digging," she explained on Good Morning America. "I felt like I was digging out a cup of jello." 

The great white shark let go, and Leeanne's boyfriend was able to help her to shore. 

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Surviving a shark attack inspired Leeanne to get a tattoo.

In an interview with the Orange County Register, Leeanne said she's "always wanted to get a tattoo, but I never got one because I didn't want to deal with the pain of a tattoo."

"Then after this happened, and now I can't feel my foot, I got an elephant [tattoo]," she said. "And in [its] ears, there are two sharks. I wanted the sharks hidden because I didn't want to look at my tattoo and see sharks all the time."

leeanne ericson shark week now tattoo
Source: YouTube
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Leeanne also connected with fellow shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton. 

Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark on October 31, 2003. She lost her arm in the attack, but like Leeanne, Bethany bravely forged ahead and used her experience to inspire others. 

The two survivors were able to meet in 2018. Leeanne Instagrammed a photo of herself with Bethany, whom she described as "one of my heroes and inspirations."

What's next for Leeanne?

According to her Instagram, she's learning to surf — "even if it kills me!" 

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Told you she was brave!  For more on Leeanne's incredible story of survival, recovery and triumph, tune into I Was Prey: Shark Week on Discovery Friday at 10 p.m.

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