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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Surfer 'shaken up' after shark rams him on Maui

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

KU'AU, Maui — Scott Hoyt never saw a shark in more than a decade of surfing in the waters around Ku'au Bay on Maui's north shore. That streak ended yesterday when one knocked him off his surfboard and bit into the fiberglass.

Scott Hoyt was surfing at Noriega's on Maui's north shore yesterday when a shark bumped him off his surfboard and chewed on the rail.

Timothy Hurley • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I'm still a bit shaken up," Hoyt said a few hours after the encounter 200 feet offshore at a surf site known as Noriega's.

Following the 10:30 a.m. incident, authorities cleared the water, posted warning signs and closed the beaches for a mile on either side of the bay. State and county enforcement officers patrolled the coast in personal watercraft, keeping surfers and swimmers out of the ocean.

The near shore waters will remain off limits until this morning, when another ocean check will determine whether the beaches should be reopened, said Archie Kalepa, the county's supervising ocean safety officer.

There are an average of three to four shark attacks each year in Hawai'i. The last occurred Feb. 16, when a surfer's board was bitten 40 yards from Rocky Point at Sunset Beach, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Hoyt, a 47-year-old helicopter mechanic, lived in Ku'au for 11 years before moving to Reno, Nev., in 2003. He returned to the coastal enclave a couple of weeks ago to housesit for a friend, and he was enjoying surfing in his old stomping grounds.

Yesterday, the ocean water was clear and so was the weather, with virtually no wind to interfere with waves of 2 to 4 feet.

Hoyt said he had been in the water for a couple of hours and was paddling out for another set when he was jolted off his board. When he turned around, Hoyt saw a shark's gray head, about 18 inches wide, gnawing on the board.

For an instant or two, Hoyt thought he was fish food. "He had me dead to rights," he said.

But instead of going after the surfer, the shark disappeared. Hoyt jumped back on the board and yelled a warning to another surfer nearby before catching a wave into shore.

Back at his friend's house, Hoyt said he was finished surfing on Maui's north shore. He was scheduled to return to Reno Friday.

"I'm not going to go there," he said. "There is a hungry shark out there. It would be crazy to go."

Other attacks

Feb. 16, 2005: Greg Long was surfing at Sunset Beach when a shark bit his board.

Oct. 9, 2004: Spearfisherman Davy Sanada, 34, was bitten on the left shoulder in shallow water outside Moloka'i's Kupeke Fishpond.

April 7, 2004: Surfer Willis "Will" McInnis, 57, was killed in an attack at "S-Turns" off Kahana, Maui.

Oct. 31, 2003: Bethany Hamilton, 13, lost her left arm in a shark attack while surfing in clear water off Ha'ena, Kaua'i.

Oct. 5, 2003: A 41-year-old woman reported receiving minor injuries on her legs and hand from a small shark while checking a fishing net off Cove Park in Kihei, Maui.

Hoyt, fingering the five or six jagged tooth marks at the edge of the surfboard, said he was lucky none of his limbs were dangling in the water. "I just think he didn't like the taste of fiberglass. Maybe he got hit by the (surfboard) fin. Who knows?"

Russell Sparks, a specialist with the DLNR's Aquatic Resources Division, wouldn't speculate what kind of shark bit the board. Tiger sharks are believed to be responsible for most of the shark attacks in Hawaiian waters.

There was mixed reaction from other surfers yesterday.

Steve Rhody of Makawao said he saw some hammerhead sharks birthing in the area two days ago, but he didn't think much of it. He said he was disappointed to be turned back from the surf yesterday.

"When you drive a car, you know others are having accidents. It's the same principle," he said.

But Steven Kornreich of Pukalani, who surfed the same waves earlier in the morning, said he wasn't sure he would go out surfing again until next season.

Hoyt said he's looking forward to returning to Nevada. "There aren't any sharks there."

Reach Timothy Hurley at thurley@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.

• • •

Tips for reducing risk of attacks

Swim, surf or dive with other people.

Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk and night, when some species of sharks move inshore to feed.

Do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations.

Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances, areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rain), channels or steep dropoffs.

Do not wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry. Sharks see contrast very well.

Refrain from excessive splashing; keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are attracted to such activity.

Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present. If a shark is sighted, leave the water quickly and calmly. Do not provoke or harass a shark, even a small one.

If fish, dolphins or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water.

Remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance behind you. Do not swim near people fishing or spearfishing. Stay away from dead animals in the water.

Swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards.

Source: Hawai'i Shark Task Force