Kauai shark attack survivor continues to inspire others

Courtesy: Mike Coots
Courtesy: Mike Coots

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A Kauai surfer and photographer is making waves on social media. The image of shark attack survivor Mike Coots has been seen by tens of thousands of people on several websites and it’s carrying several powerful messages.

It’s been said a picture is worth a thousand words but this one says a whole lot more.

Coots, a surfer and professional photographer, landed GoPro’s photo of the day on Monday with a shot of him tucking into a tube with his prosthetic leg.

“Just stoked that GoPro put it up for the photo of the day,” Coots said.

In 1997, Coots’ right foot was torn off by a tiger shark while he was bodyboarding on the west side of Kauai. He was only 18 years old.

Since then, he’s been a strong advocate for the conservation and protection of sharks.

In 2009, he and eight other shark survivors made national headlines when they helped pass the Shark Conservation Act, a bill that put an end to shark finning in U.S. waters.

The GoPro image is providing him with a large audience for his message.

“Obviously, the trend for getting awareness and getting issues out there is through social media, so I guess this is the perfect platform to create awareness,” Coots said.

Now 32 years old, Coots is also a strong believer in providing hope. His life mission recently took him to Boston.

“Going to Boston I would have to say is the most powerful experience I’ve ever had on my life,” Coots said.

He and two other board members from the Friends of Bethany Hamilton Foundation, an organization that provides support for amputee and shark attack survivors, traveled to Boston a week after the bombings.

“As an amputee myself, be able to relate what the process is of losing a limb and the questions people have. No matter how you lost your leg, you still have the same core of questions,” Coots said.

A day after surveying the damage, they met with victims of the terrorist blasts.

“The next day, I’m sitting at the bedside of amputees and explaining the process of getting a prosthetic and basically just trying to give hope and encouragement,” Coots said.

Coots says he was honored and humbled by their open hearts.

“I’m crying and the victims are crying and we’re both crying. I mean, it was the most emotional thing I’ve ever done in my life. And totally felt like there was a reason why I was there and a reason why these people let me into their lives,” Coots said. “It was the most powerful, inspiring. I’m getting chicken skin just talking about it.”

He’s a young man who suffered his own tragedy but continues to inspire.

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