When Mike Coots is out surfing with his good friend Bethany Hamilton, the surfers around them say that’s when they don’t fear a shark attack.
Coots, like Hamilton, is a shark-attack amputee. But more importantly, he’s another example of someone who scoffed at tragedy: Even though he lost his lower right leg while bodyboarding in 1997, Coots taught himself to surf while wearing a prosthesis and went on to become a successful commercial photographer.
And he wound up with a bit part in “Soul Surfer,” the new biopic about Hamilton that opens nationwide today. He plays a fashion photographer snapping shots of Alana Blanchard. He has a few lines and he’s wearing pants, so nothing seems out of place.
“It wasn’t too much of a stretch to play that role,” he said in a telephone interview from Kauai, where he lives. “I have done that before.”
The 31-year-old Coots was bitten by a shark at Waiokapua Bay off West Kauai. After Hamilton was attacked in 2003, he was one of the first people to visit her after her initial surgery at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.
Coots has already seen “Soul Surfer” at a special Kauai screening. When the shark attack came, he didn’t shudder with flashback.
“It wasn’t scary,” he said. “It just really made me realize how lucky both of us are to have survived.”
But Coots was moved by what he saw.
“There were a lot of sad moments but at the end, you felt so proud of her,” he said. “It ended up on such a positive note. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the theater, myself included.”