Teen surfer recovering from shark bite speaks out

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Jimmy “Ulu Boy” Napeahi says the shark hit him so fast, he didn’t know what was going on.

The 16-year-old surfer from Kalapana was attacked by a shark on Sunday in the waters off the Big Island.

He’s been surfing since he was four and has seen sharks before, but he usually got out of the water in time.

But this time, the shark attacked from behind.

He says it was a tiger shark, about eight to 10 feet long.

“Still really sore. Feel lost. Feel scared,” Napeahi said from his hospital bed at Hilo Medical Center.

He went to Pohoiki Bay on Sunday with his family and friends. It’s his home surf break.

Then just after 1:30 p.m., his mother, Claire Napeahi, heard someone yell, “Shark!”

“I look out to the water and my other son is yelling, ‘Oh, look at the shark!’ and I could see the shark through the wave. And I saw the whole group of them paddling in, came upon the rocks, and everybody stood up except for Ulu Boy. And I knew it was him,” she said.

“I got hit and then I got bit and then started punching the shark.  And then by the time I could see it, it bit my leash off.  I hopped on my board and when I went up the rocks, I felt my hand just sink into the back of my thigh,” Napeahi said.

He’s had 180 stitches below the waist.

“Missing a part of my buttocks,” Napeahi said.  “I was really lucky that it missed all my main ligaments, and just tore my muscles, which is amazing because when it bit me it had me from waist down and punctured my waist about two to three inches in on both sides.”

And the shark didn’t just bite him once.

“The 14 bites were down to my bones,” Napeahi said.

He credits all the well-wishes, and his family and friends for helping him pull through this traumatic experience.

Napeahi’s mother said, “We’re here.  I’m so happy.  I have my son and I’m blessed I have my son.”

Napeahi is already thinking about getting back in the water, just not with the same surfboard.

“It’s a really good board. I enjoyed it a lot, but I won’t be using it anymore because I’ll either burn it or hang it on my wall,” Napeahi said.

Napeahi is one of the top junior surfers in Hawaii.

He has wanted to become a pro surfer since he was little, and he’s still determined to see that dream through.

Napeahi is a senior at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences — a public charter school.

He’ll likely be at Hilo Medical Center for another week or two. Then he expects several months of rehabilitation.

But overall, he’s just happy to have survived the attack.

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