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Society

Hawaiian Surfer Bitten by Shark

October 25, 2016

HONOLULU — A surfer says he’s grateful to be recovering in a Maui hospital after a shark bit him — even though the attack forced him and his wife to postpone their honeymoon.

Federico Jaime was surfing Oct. 21 at a beach about two blocks from his Paia home when he felt a shark chomp down on his left arm, he recalled Oct. 24 from his room at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

“It just came out of nowhere,” he said. “I saw the shark right in my face. It grabbed my arm— my left arm. It was really violent.”

He knew he had been bitten. “I could see my arm was pretty much destroyed,” Jaime said. “I hit it with my hands and my legs. I don’t know what I did.”

Then, he said, he felt something pull on his left leg. At the time, he didn’t realize the shark had bit him a second time.

Jaime, who was supposed to leave for a Tahiti honeymoon on Oct. 22, started screaming. Nearby surfers helped get him to shore. One of them used a surfboard leash as a tourniquet.

Professional surfer Matt Meola was on the beach when he saw the surfers suddenly paddle toward Jaime, who he recognized as a regular at Hookipa Beach Park.

“I just ran down with my phone. I saw that he was probably going to survive,” Meola said. “I probably wouldn’t have filmed if he was dying. But I thought he was going to be OK so I started filming.”

Meola said he continued filming as Jaime calmly rinsed in a shower before paramedics arrived “freakishly fast” and whisked him into an ambulance. “He was pretty excited to see the footage I got,” Meola said.

Jaime said with a laugh that he watched it “a thousand times.” It’s surreal to watch, he said: “I’m really lucky. I’m super positive.”

The 5-foot reef shark bit Jaime when he was about 50 yards from shore at a surf spot known as “H-Poko,” according to the Maui Fire Department.

Jaime said he knows that October accounts for the greatest number of Hawaii shark bites. University of Hawaii researchers say this may be because female tiger sharks migrate south from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to give birth.

An influx of hungry pupping sharks may boost the likelihood of a bad encounter with a human.

The attack won’t diminish his passion for surfing, said Jaime, 36, who moved to Maui from Argentina about six years ago.

After three-hours of surgery on Oct. 21, Jaime can move all his fingers and can feel his forearm muscle working. But he’ll need another surgery on Oct. 26 to repair a tendon, he said.

He and his wife — married for about a year — will go on their honeymoon when he’s feeling better.

(JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER)

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