By Mark McConville
WATCH the amazing moment an amputee surfer came face to face with a tiger shark for the first time since one deprived him of his right leg.
Incredible images and video show Mike Coots, 37, diving with and petting tiger sharks as he bids to move on from the terrifying attack nineteen years ago.
Other stunning shots show Mike surfing with a prosthetic limb while some pictures show Mike as he recovered from the horrific incident.
“The first dive was one of the most incredible, calming, amazing and beautiful experiences,” he said.
“Totally mesmerizing. I wasn’t scared at all. The sharks make you feel at home and it is calmer than watching them form the surface.
“It’s something I recommend everyone to do if they have the chance.”
Mike described the attack that took place on the morning of October 28th 1997 in Major’s Bay on Kaua’i.
“I was 18 at the time, and a die-hard bodyboarder,” he said. “I paddled out around 7am with some close friends.
“The water was really stinky and murky, but the surf was good so we paddled out anyway. After waiting for a wave for ten minutes or so, I saw a nice wave and starting paddling for it.
“A large tiger shark came out of the water right below me like a submarine, and grabbed both my legs. It swung me back and forth like a dog would do with a toy, and after it stopped I punched it.
“As soon as I hit it, the shark let go of my legs and went back under water. I got on my board, looked at my hand as it was bloody and torn up. I started paddling to shore fast, and my right leg started shaking, almost like a spasm.
“I looked back behind me at my leg, and it was completely gone, just squirting blood out of the missing limb. Luckily a small wave came, I caught it to the shore and friends dragged me up the sand and made a tourniquet.
“I was rushed in the back of a pickup truck to the hospital and went through surgery. I was released about a week later, and the next chapter in life began as an amputee.”
Mike didn’t let the attack phase him and got back into the water as soon as he could.
“About a month later the stitches and staples healed, and I was able to get back in the water riding waves,” he said.
“I caught my first wave after the attack very close to where the attack happened, only because that’s where the surf was good that day.
“It was honestly the best feeling getting back in the water that first time. Up until that point, I had not been out of the water for more than a couple days.
“The hardest part of the attack was being out of the ocean for such a long time. I wasn’t scared of getting attacked again, that was not on my mind one bit.”
Despite the attack and the loss of his leg Mike is a big advocate for shark conservation and said we need to save them while we still can.
“Since the attack, my eyes have been opened to the horrendous decline in shark populations due to overfishing, shark finning, as well as the negative impact that media such as films like “Jaws” have had on them,” he said.
“In the past I have helped develop legislature prohibiting the trade of shark fins into Hawaii. We have a strict state law here in Hawaii that prohibits the sale and possession of shark fins. I have spoken to Congress on the need for stricter federal shark finning laws and the UN on the importance of multi-country shark sanctuaries.
“I hope that in time I can continue to help make people more aware of the devastation of our impacts to sharks along with debunking the fear that comes along with them. Sharks are a vital species for the health of our oceans.
“If I can turn something that could be a negative and change it for a positive, then why not? A shark took my leg, and stole my heart.”
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