North Shore shark attack victim remembers year-long challenge of recovery

Photo courtesy Colin Cook

When a snorkeler was attacked by a shark Friday morning in Maui, the news hit close to home for Colin Cook, a former Hawaii resident who survived a shark attack about a year ago on Oct. 9, 2015.

He lost his left leg after he was attacked by a shark while sitting on his surfboard at Leftovers on Oahu’s North Shore.

Photo courtesy Chris Webster
Photo courtesy Chris Webster

After the leg was amputated above the knee, Cook says his recovery was tough at times but he never lost sight of surfing again.

“It’s definitely been a long year,” he said. “The first half of the year was definitely pretty rough as far as pain and getting a prosthetic and kind of going through that whole experience.”

Slowly but surely, Cook re-learned how to walk and practiced pop-ups at home to get him ready to get back into surfing.

But there wasn’t a prosthetic on the market that gave him enough mobility. “I was like, this can’t be, so I contacted my friend who is an engineer, and I have a buddy who owns a company who works with fiberglass and carbon fiber, and I ended up developing a leg just for surfing.”

Photo courtesy Colin Cook
Photo courtesy Colin Cook

When he finally got back into the water, Cook admitted that “the first hour or two was pretty difficult, but by the end of the session, I was getting up and catching every wave.”

And Cook hasn’t slowed down since — in August 2016, he came back to the North Shore.

“We went out and went shark diving, no cage, and that was really good,” he said. “It was really therapeutic.”

Despite what happened, Cook says his opinion of sharks isn’t negative.

He offered this advice for the attack victim currently recovering on Maui: “What really helped me was taking it one step at a time. If you get too wrapped up about the situation, it makes the recovery process really hard.

“Just one day at a time, and if you keep your head up, you can make it through.”

Cook says he’s looking into marketing the prosthetic he designed to help other amputees who want to get back into surfing.

Photo courtesy Colin Cook
Photo courtesy Colin Cook

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