By CHELSEA JENSEN
Stephens Media Hawaii
A Captain Cook man is recovering from wounds to his hand and leg following an apparent shark attack Wednesday morning in waters near Punaluu Beach Park in Ka‘u.
The 29-year-old was body boarding with two friends about 20 yards offshore about 8 a.m. when he was apparently bitten by a tiger shark, estimated at 10 to 12 feet in length, the Hawaii County Police Department said. The attack occurred in water about 8 to 12 feet deep in Ninole Bay, just south of the Hawaii County beach park.
A police spokeswoman told Stephens Media Hawaii the man suffered non-life-threatening lacerations to his right hand and right leg in the reported attack.
The three were surfing in the area for about an hour when the attack occurred, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The shark reportedly hit the man’s board and knocked him off as he was paddling back out from catching a wave.
The man was brought to shore and transported by his friends via private vehicle to Ka‘u Hospital, where he was being treated for the wounds, according to the DLNR. No further information was available on his condition.
Hawaii County Fire Department lifeguards shortly after the attack closed the beach and posted shark warning signs at the park, according to the DLNR and fire department. An aerial observation of the shoreline area conducted about 10 a.m. Wednesday found no sign of sharks in the area, said Gerald Kosaki, the fire department’s battalion chief for Special Operations.
Ka‘u Kakou, a local community outreach group, was tasked with informing beachgoers of the closure, according to the DLNR.
The Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation, under the authority of which the beach park falls, said the park facilities on land remained open.
The Hawaii County Fire Department at 10 a.m. today will perform an aerial observation of the shoreline area. If no sharks are sighted, the park will be reopened at noon, Kosaki said.
Attempts to reach the victim at Ka‘u Hospital were unsuccessful as of press time Wednesday.
This is the third shark attack in West Hawaii waters — and fourth shark attack in Big Island waters — so far in 2013.
On Aug. 18, a 16-year-old Puna buy suffered bites to his legs while surfing in waters near Pohoiki Boat Ramp in East Hawaii. Two months earlier, on June 18, a 28-year-old Kailua-Kona man suffered shark bites to his leg in an apparent attack in waters off the Mahaiula area in North Kona. On Jan. 16, a man was surfing in waters off Kiholo Bay in North Kona when a shark bit his hand.
In 2011, there were two reports of sharks biting boards, but not injuring the riders, near Lyman’s surf spot in Kailua-Kona.
Prior to that, an attack occurred in October 1999 when a 16-year-old boy had his arm bitten by a 6- to 8-foot shark while he was surfing shortly before sunset off Old Kona Airport Park, according to Stephens Media Hawaii archives. An unconfirmed attack was also reported April 1987 in Kailua Bay and a confirmed attack occurred in 1963 off South Kona, according to the archives.
Statewide, this marks the 14th shark attack this year, according to the DLNR. Two of the attacks were fatal and occurred off Maui’s southwest coast. The most recent fatal attack was Dec. 2 when a shark attacked a kayak fisherman visiting from Washington state. Prior to that, in August, a German woman died a week after losing her arm in a shark attack.
Email Chelsea Jensen at email@example.com.