Kitesurfer’s board bitten by shark
KANAHA – A shark that was about 10 feet long chomped down on a kitesurfer’s board as it drifted about 50 yards offshore near Ka’a Point just west of Kanaha Beach Park on Tuesday afternoon, witnesses said.
Maui County lifeguards closed waters off the beach promptly after emergency dispatch operators received the call around 2:20 p.m. Officers with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources also responded to the scene.
A little before 2 p.m. Tuesday, the kitesurfer, Morgan Flannery of San Francisco, was more than a quarter mile out at sea when “something went wrong with my kite.”
The 19-year-old decided to perform a self-rescue, she said. That is an essential maneuver for kitesurfers when they run into trouble at sea, are not able to get their kite back up and need to get back to shore.
“I ditched the board and just swam in with my kite,” Flannery said. “I figured it would float in.”
By the time she reached the beach, her board was still drifting more than 50 yards out at sea. Just as her instructor was debating with others who would swim out to retrieve the board, she said she saw the shark swim up next to it.
“It (the shark) was checking it out at first with small bites, but then it really came out of the water and submerged it,” said Flannery, who witnessed the attack from the shore. She said she saw the shark’s head breach the water and come down on top of the board, dragging it under.
She and other witnesses said that the shark bit the board at least three times. After about a minute, the shark swam away.
“It was kind of bizarre because you don’t expect to see that kind of thing,” Flannery said. “I know that they’re always out there, but after it went on for about a minute, I was like, ‘Oh, this is really happening, I was just there.’ “
She described the experience as “surreal,” but not one that would keep her out of the water. She said she plans on coming back to the beach Thursday for another kitesurfing lesson.
“I’ve been teaching for five years, and I’ve never seen a shark at this spot,” said Foster Wick, an instructor with Aqua Sports Maui who was teaching Flannery on Tuesday.
Wick also witnessed the entire attack from the shore about 50 yards away. He said he suspected it “was probably a tiger” shark. Officials have not yet confirmed the type of shark.
Moments after the attack, once the board was able to drift closer to the rocks, Wick went to retrieve it.
“I was crawling in on the rocks,” Wick said. “I didn’t want to go out there.”
After the attack, lifeguards and state enforcement officers patrolled the area on personal watercraft, telling other kitesurfers and people in the water to come onshore, Maui County spokesman Ryan Piros said.
The shoreline was closed for 1 mile on each side of Ka’a Point, or Kite Beach, until dusk on Tuesday, according to a county statement. Ocean Safety officials will make a determination on whether to reopen the area this morning.
No injuries were reported.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.