Shark attack survivor competes in surf competition with self-crafted prosthetic leg

Almost a year and a half ago, a North Shore man became part of an exclusive club that no one wants to join.

On Oct. 9, 2015, Colin Cook was attacked by a shark while sitting on his board at the surf spot known as Leftovers on Oahu’s North Shore. He lost his left leg above the knee.

It’s been a long road to recovery, but this past weekend, he celebrated a milestone by competing in the Hawaii Surfing Association’s Invitational State Championships at Ala Moana Bowls.

The waves weren’t very big, and neither was the crowd, but for Colin Cook, none of that mattered. All that did matter was that he was back in the water.

“It’s a great day at the Hawaii State Champs. It’s a great day just to be down here. It’s really inspiring to see everybody out there,” Cook said.

When we spoke to him last October, one year after the attack, Cook told us, “It’s definitely been a long year. 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.”

Cook says getting that prosthetic leg specifically for surfing was especially challenging. When he couldn’t find one, he set out to build one himself — one that was strong enough to support him, but flexible enough to maneuver.

“This is my surfing prosthetic. Me and my friends, we built this and designed this 100-percent from scratch,” Cook said. “It’s all carbon fiber. It’s all high-tech composites. … The only reason why I kind of wanted to design it was there was nothing out there for an above-the-knee amputee as far as having a surfing prosthetic.”

Even with the new prosthetic, Cook says it took more than eight months to be able to stand up on a board.

But now he’s back in the water, and has been riding again for about a year.

“I did some small competitions before, obviously just amateur stuff, so I’m really happy on how it came out and it’s working great,” Cook said. “It felt like forever when I was laying in bed every day, but I wanted to get in sooner.”

Cook also hopes to get back to shaping surfboards, but he says standing for long periods of time is still difficult.

But, like his surfing, he says he’ll get there.

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