Despite undergoing two surgeries and receiving hundreds of stitches to his left leg after a shark bit him while he was surfing at North Beach in Kaneohe a week ago, all 14-year-old Parker Blanchette can think about is surfing again.
“I still want to head back to the ocean. I would head back today but I can’t,” Blanchette said in an interview Monday morning as he stood near a lifeguard tower at the beach. He mentioned he has about a month until his wounds fully heal and the doctor removes his stitches.
Blanchette said he was surfing with friends and older brother when a shark bit him in waters approximately 30 to 40 feet off of North Beach at the Mokapu Peninsula at about 3:40 p.m. May 3. The beach is at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, where Blanchette lives with his family in military housing.
He described how he was just coming off a wave when he felt as if something punched his leg. “It took me a couple of seconds to realize, but I got bit immediately as I got off the board,” he said.
He then saw a shark — approximately 5-1/2 feet long, possibly a whitetip or blacktip reef shark — swim away.
Blanchette managed to paddle to shore on his own. “I was probably high on adrenaline at the time, but I popped right back on my board and paddled in and walked most of the way here,” he said as he stood next to a lifeguard tower.
Lifeguards administered aid until Emergency Medical Services personnel arrived. He was taken in stable condition to Adventist Health Castle (formerly Castle Medical Center) in Kailua and then to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women &Children, where he underwent two surgeries to his left leg.
He sustained lacerations to the back and front of his leg that include a deep laceration by his knee. Blanchette said the shark bite did not affect any major blood vessels or arteries. He was discharged from the hospital Wednesday.
Blanchette’s mother recalled how calm her son was when she received a phone call from him after the shark bite. “He said, ‘Hey, Mom, I got bitten by a shark. I think I’m going to need a couple of stitches.’”
“He was so chill,” Amanda Blanchette said.
Shark experts are unclear what species bit Blanchette.
Carl Meyer, a shark researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Hawaii, said a bite from either a whitetip or blacktip reef shark is extremely rare.
Images he observed of the surfer’s bite wound show it is not consistent with the bite from a whitetip shark, which has 42 to 50 small, narrow and closely spaced teeth in each jaw.
“The bite impression is more consistent with a species with a smaller number of larger, broader teeth than the whitetip reef shark,” Meyer said in an emailed statement. “Other common coastal sharks in Hawaii have anywhere from 12 to 16 teeth per jaw and would be more likely candidates for this bite.”
Wearing a black baseball cap with a shark design on the front, Blanchette said the encounter spurred his fascination with sharks and did not discourage him to return to surfing at North Beach once he fully recovers. “It was just a freak coincidence that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
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