WAILUKU >> A man surfing with his three young sons used his fist and surfboard to fend off a shark attack in waters off Maui that were rough and murky from a hurricane that churned passed Hawaii over the weekend.
Waves were about 3 to 4 feet high Saturday at the surf site known as Freight Trains off Maalaea, the Maui News reported. Kaleo Roberson of Haiku was in a group of about 20 people and holding one of his 8-year-old twins when a 12- to 14-foot tiger shark appeared.
Roberson said he saw a massive open mouth and teeth a few feet from him.
“It was something you dream of on ‘Shark Week,'” Roberson said. “It was so close to me, and the mouth was so open when it came up. It was in pure attack mode, and it was just right there. I was basically in its mouth.”
Roberson slid off his board to put it between him and the shark. He then punched and kicked the predator.
“Right then, I realized I was fighting for my life, and I had my sons with me so I took my board, and I started swinging it,” he said.
His other two sons also were within 10 feet of the shark. Roberson said he was thinking of them as he swung his board.
“I don’t care if this thing bites me, but if my pride and joys are making it to the beach safe, then I’ll feed this thing my leg if I have to,” he said.
A friend, John Patao, was about 5 feet away taking pictures of his own son and other surfers when he saw Roberson fighting off the shark.
“Everyone went into survival mode,” Patao said. “The shark was attacking him and bit his board one time, and after that the shark was circling him.”
Patao said he helped Roberson get his sons to safety, and then he and Roberson swam to shore together.
“We were yelling for everybody to get in because we were worried about the kids,” Patao said.
No one was injured, but the shark left a 14-inch bite mark on Roberson’s board.
Roberson’s wife, Tiare, watched the commotion from shore. She said she prayed and screamed for her children and husband to make it to shore.
“My whole life flashed before my eyes,” Tiare Roberson said. “It was terrifying. I’m just really glad they’re all OK.”
Police, lifeguards and state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials cleared other people out of the water. The department closed 3 to 4 miles of nearby beaches until Monday.
The attack coincided with stormy weather from Hurricane Ana, which missed directly hitting Hawaii but still delivered heavy rain, high surf and strong winds. Officials in some areas asked people to keep out of the ocean Sunday, with Honolulu Ocean Safety Chief Jim Howe noting there was plenty of brown water from runoff, which attracts sharks.
Jason Brumbaugh was surfing at Freight Trains with his sons when Saturday’s attack happened. He said he briefly considered the possibility of a shark attack because of the gray skies and murky water.
“You think about it real quickly, but you don’t obsess,” Brumbaugh said. “You don’t think it will happen to you.”