A 65-year-old part-time Hawaii resident recalls taking pictures of coral and fish off of Anaehoomalu Bay on Hawaii island’s west side Tuesday morning before a shark flipped her kayak and bit her right inner thigh.
Kimberly Bishop managed to scramble back onto the kayak but ended up with a bite approximately 12 inches in diameter, according to the Hawaii County Fire Department.
“I may have dipped my toe into the water to feel how warm it was — but it wasn’t like dangling my legs off the kayak or anything like that,” Bishop said from North Hawaii Community Hospital, where she was being treated for the bite. “I felt the kayak bump, flip and immediately the chomp into my leg.”
As of Tuesday evening Bishop said she hadn’t seen the wound and didn’t have a lot of information about it, but she added, “I feel OK.”
What type of shark bit her is not clear; Bishop said she didn’t see it because it approached from behind, and her husband, Kim, was about 200 feet away on on a stand-up paddleboard.
Kimberly Bishop said she shouted, “Shark! Shark!” and tried to pull herself up on the kayak.
“My legs were still dangling in the water, so my thought was, I’ve just got to get out of the water,” she said. “I knew I was bit, but I had to get out of the water and I was able to flip the kayak back over myself and pull myself onto it.”
There was some speculation it might have been a 5-foot blacktip reef shark, but the couple said it was bigger and possibly a tiger shark.
When her husband reached her, “he saw the fins, (and) from the fins he didn’t think it was a reef shark, but he couldn’t see the body — just the fins,” she said.
The force of the shark hitting the kayak “was enough to tip me,” she said, adding that her kayak is “pretty sturdy.”
Bishop said the water was clear and that she was taking pictures of fish and coral with her cellphone in about 15 feet of water.
“I had a choice: I had my phone in one hand, and my other hand was on the kayak, and I decided my phone wasn’t that important,” she said. “So my phone is in the bottom of A-Bay.”
State Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison said the type and size of the shark had yet to be confirmed.
“In talking to the experts, we don’t have any evidence that a blacktip reef shark has ever been involved in a shark bite incident,” Dennison said.
The shark bite occurred at about 8:30 a.m. several hundred yards offshore. The popular bay is on Hawaii island’s west shore near the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
Bishop said she and her husband are from Glendale, Calif., but have a residence in Waikoloa and spend at least a couple of months there every spring.
Her husband had paddled over and threw her the leash from his paddleboard and tried to tow her back in, “but there were outrigger paddlers that were not too far away and we started shouting to them,” she said. “They came over and they called 911, and one of them was a doctor. I took hold of their outrigger, and they pulled me into shore.”
Shark warning signs were posted at the beach and were to remain in place until at least noon today, Dennison said. All adjacent beaches and hotels also were notified.
A Fire Department helicopter conducted shoreline checks within an hour of the incident but did not spot any sharks, officials said.
Dennison said this was the fourth reported shark encounter so far this year, and the second at Anaehoomalu Bay. On March 26 a man paddling an outrigger canoe in the bay said he was attacked by a shark. Upon further investigation the incident was classified as a boat attack because the shark bit the canoe. The man suffered a laceration to his leg.
“I’ll go again. Not tomorrow,” Bishop said. “But I’ll go again, and when I do I’ll make sure I always have buddies with me, because that made a huge difference.”