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Stuart surfer 'having nightmares' after being bitten by shark at Pepper Park Beach

Matt Picarelli recalls how shark 'took a chomp' out of his foot
Posted at 8:12 PM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 20:23:47-04

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A 36-year-old surfer from Stuart told WPTV that he was in the water last Sunday afternoon at Pepper Park Beach in Fort Pierce when, suddenly, he felt a shark bite down.

"It was a big animal next to me coming towards me and then, once it bit me, it took a chomp out of my foot and it just immediately left and just flew away, like so quick," Matt Picarelli recalled. "Everything happening so quickly, it didn't feel real at all. It felt very surreal."

Picarelli recalled rushing out of the water as strangers jumped into action. He said a friend drove him to HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital.

"It was bleeding everywhere too, so I had a whole bunch of strangers helping me out, giving me water, putting pressure on the wound," he said. "Fifty stitches, broken tendon, chipped the bone. Yeah, it was – didn't look good."

Matt Picarelli in hospital bed after being bitten by shark
Matt Picarelli had to get 50 stitches at HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital after a shark bit his leg while surfing at Pepper Beach Park.

Picarelli is recovering from the physical wounds and can feel his toes, but he said the bite keeps replaying in his mind.

"Every night I've been having nightmares about it," he said. "I'm having sharks, whether I'm in the water or even in a room, coming towards me and biting my leg, biting my arm, biting my side, biting something, and attacking me."

Through the pain, Picarelli finds the strength to smile, realizing it could've always been much worse.

Matt Picarelli can smile about being bitten by shark while surfing, March 17, 2023
Matt Picarelli, 36, can smile now that he's recovering after being bitten by a shark while surfing at Pepper Park Beach.

"I feel like I always have a positive mind. I'm optimistic," he said. "To every surfer, they know there's a danger of sharks and them being out there. We're in their house, essentially."

Picarelli said he's dealing with waves of pain and expects to be off his foot for six weeks, followed by physical therapy.

"I surfed my entire life," he said. "I'm a waterman. I love the ocean. I'm in there every day, so I don't see myself not going back in after this."

Picarelli set up a GoFundMe account to assist with his medical expenses.