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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

14-foot tiger shark takes bite out of Hanalei surfer's board

By Nathan Eagle
The Garden Island

HANALEI An estimated 14-foot-long tiger shark chomped the tail end off a local surfer's board yesterday afternoon in Hanalei Bay, witnesses said.

North Shore resident Leslie McTaggart, who was a couple car-lengths away from Jim Rowlinson surfing at the point, said the water "boiled" as the shark swam by and took a bite out of Rowlinson's blue longboard around 4 p.m.

McTaggart yelled for help, assuming at the time that the shark had pulled Rowlinson underwater. As it turns out, Rowlinson apparently dove off his board to undo the leash fastened around his ankle.

"The shark was spitting pieces of the board out right under me," McTaggart said, noting how she saw its tail thrashing in the water. "The guy could've died."

Based on the teethmarks embedded in the board, marine biologist Terry Lilley of Save Our Seas said the shark was likely 14 feet long. He estimated this based off the base of the tooth measuring 1.25 inches.

McTaggart and Lilley likened the experience to the time several years ago when Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing at nearby Tunnels. Hamilton lost her arm in the Oct. 31, 2003, incident but returned to competitive surfing within a year.

Lilley, who routinely observes sharks while scuba diving, was in the bay filming a high-definition underwater movie at the time of the attack. Although he didn't get a clear shot, he said he suspects the shark was hunting sea turtles, one of its primary food sources.

When a shark is hunting a turtle, the turtle will try to escape by heading toward the nearest reef where it can better utilize its hard shell for protection, Lilley said. The turtles will also employ a barrel-roll maneuver to minimize chances of a shark snatching a flipper.

Lilley said the shark involved in this incident was likely chasing after a turtle when it mistakenly bit the surfboard. He said Rowlinson noted he saw a "yellow flash," which could have been the underside of a turtle, just before the shark bit his board.

"The problem is we all look like turtles," McTaggart said of a shark's view of surfers sitting on their boards in the water.

The Ocean Safety Bureau on Kauai said today that no sharks have been sighted.

On the Net:

Read the complete story at The Garden Island: http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/article_eb17cc1e-4c4e-11df-89bf-001cc4c002e0.html

Save Our Seas: www.saveourseas.org