Surfer attacked by shark credits board for saving life

A Kaneohe man who was bitten by a shark Monday afternoon said he looked the massive animal in the eye just moments before it struck.

Kiowa Gatewood stares at his six-foot surfboard knowing he got lucky.

“I saw its face. It just came out of the water and I saw everything,” Gatewood said.

The 19-year-old Gatewood was surfing with friends at White Plains in Ewa Beach about 100 feet from shore when he saw a large shadow below him.

“It came up and its face was already on me, so I knew it was already biting me,” Gatewood said. “What I did was I used my left hand and I hit him on the side of his face right over here, and then it let go and then I turned right around and it swam off.”

Gatewood says he’s positive it was a tiger shark.

He alerted the rest of the surfers in the lineup there was shark in the water. He knew he was bitten, but didn’t know how bad.

“I didn’t really realize, I just knew I had to get out of the water. It looked really big,” Gatewood said.

Witnesses estimate the shark was between eight to 10 feet.

“There was a monk seal on the sand, too, like when I was crawling in. I saw right next to it and I looked at it and was like, ‘Oh, that’s why there’s tiger sharks here,’” Gatewood said.

The shark left behind its mark on Gatewood’s surfboard. He believes the board saved his life.

“The impact I got underneath the board and it save under me leg. So the only bite that hit me was just on the top of my leg,” Gatewood said.

“I’m really happy that he stayed calm and he just paddled back by himself and pushed his way up onshore,” Gatewood’s sister Tiana Lakanaria said.

On July 17, White Plains Beach was closed for about two hours after a large shark was spotted in shallow waters.

“I heard there’s been sightings of a 12-foot tiger shark recently,” Gatewood said.

Gatewood underwent surgery on his leg Monday night and started rehab Tuesday morning. He hopes to be back in the water in two months.

“It was just one of those days the water was murky and it was an ominous feeling but yeah I’m probably going to go back out when I can,” Gatewood said.

“Be careful when you surf, just be aware of your surroundings and if the water is murky and it’s raining, don’t go out,” Lakanaria said.

White Plains Beach was reopened at 2 p.m. Tuesday after being closed following the attack on Gatewood.

Related story: Surfer taken to hospital after shark attack

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