Local professional surfer Kai Barger, 21, said he wasn’t sure what to think when he and his friends heard a bodyboarder screaming from 20 yards away at the infamous “Ledges” surf spot at Kahului Harbor yesterday.
“Usually someone yells ‘shark’ and everybody freaks out and heads back in,” he said. “But we couldn’t hear what he was yelling and I wasn’t really sure what to think. The waves were pretty good and we wanted to stay in. We weren’t sure if it was someone crying ‘shark’ just to have the spot to himself.”
Barger’s wait-and-see attitude proved potentially life-saving to a 15-year-old boy who suffered foot and leg injuries after being bitten by a 6-foot shark.
County and state officials kept people out of the water from Kahului Harbor to Paukukalo this morning. County lifeguards on personal watercraft were observing ocean conditions, a state Land Department spokeswoman said. No sharks were seen today, warning signs were removed at noon and ocean users were allowed back in the water.
On Sunday, Barger and three friends had paddled out to the experts-only surf spot in hopes of catching a prime set of waves generated by a northeast swell. He said two bodyboarders were also out in the water but appeared to have been drawn further out by the tide.
Barger said he heard one of the bodyboarders scream but couldn’t believe that there was a shark nearby. He watched as the two bodyboarders paddled slowly back toward him and his friends.
“I asked them if they had seen a shark and he said that he had been bitten by one,” Barger said. “He lifted his leg and his fin was gone and all of the skin on his shin was off. It was really gnarly.”
Barger and fellow professional surfer Tanner Hendrickson towed the two boys back to shore against the current.
“We just told him that he was O.K., that he still had a foot, and that he was going to survive this,” Barger said. “We just did whatever we could to keep him calm.”
On the beach, Barger and Hendrickson used their leashes as tourniquets for the wound while they waited for emergency medical services to arrive.
State officials closed the harbor to swimmers and surfers after the 3:45 p.m. incident.
Barger, who last year won the Billabong ASP World Juniors Championship, said he was “stoked” that the boy appeared to be in good condition after the attack and that he and his friends were able to help.
“It’s just the code of the water that you help when someone is in trouble,” he said.