Maui Surfer Punches Tiger Shark To Save His Life

As reported by Christie Wilson for the Honolulu Advertiser.

Scott Henrich's board faired a bit better than his leg. Photo: Christie Wilson/Honolulu Advertiser

Scott Henrich's board faired a bit better than his leg. Photo: Christie Wilson/Honolulu Advertiser

KIHEI, Maui — Maui shark-bite victim Scott Henrich wants to apologize.

“Tell all the surfers that I’m sorry they couldn’t go out today because they closed the beaches,” said Henrich, 54, recovering at his Kíhei home yesterday after receiving 100 stitches in his right leg, where he was wounded by a 6- to 8-foot shark.

It was a 3-foot south swell, unusual for this time of year, that drew Henrich before dawn yesterday to a surf spot known as Kalama Bowls, a site normally mobbed by local surfers and surfing schools that cater to tourists. He had just paddled out about 300 yards around 6 a.m. and sat up on his board when the shark suddenly emerged from the water and clamped onto the surfer’s leg. Henrich said he punched the animal’s snout twice and it released its grip.

“I thought, ‘I gotta get him off my leg,’ so I pounded him. I was just hoping he wasn’t going to chomp all the way through,” he said.

As part of normal protocol after a shark attack, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources closed beaches along the South Maui coast from Lípoa Street to Kamaole Beach Park I. DLNR aquatic specialist Russell Sparks said state and county personnel will scan the waters this morning to check for sharks before making a determination to reopen the beaches.

Sparks said there wasn’t enough evidence to determine what species of shark bit Henrich, although tiger sharks are suspected in most attacks in Hawaii.

3rd attack of year

Yesterday’s incident was the third shark-bite case in Hawaii this year. A tiger shark is suspected of breaking off the nose of a surfboard in an Aug. 6 incident off Kawa, Kau, on the Big Island. On March 16, an open-ocean swimmer was bitten by a cookie-cutter shark 10 miles northwest of Upolu Point on the Big Island.