The kitesurfer who was bitten by a shark last week and remains hospitalized with a severe leg injury called the experience off Kaa Point at Kanaha Beach Park the "most frightening thing."
"I saw the head come out of the water and take my leg," he said in a phone interview Monday from Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The 45-year-old Frenchman, who gave only his first name, Christian, said he was speaking to The Maui News because he thought that relating "the circumstances that happened to me can be a help" to others who enjoy the ocean.
"I want to warn other people because my family and I were very surprised that the beach was reopened the following day at noon," said Christian, who was on a two-week vacation on Maui. "For me, it's dangerous because it could happen to another kiter."
The attack was reported to firefighters at about 3:20 p.m. Thursday.
Christian estimated that he was kitesurfing about 875 yards offshore when the shark struck.
"I just saw the top of his head," said Christian, estimating the shark's head at 16 inches wide. "The most frightening thing was (that) this was happening during a turn, and I only stand still for a second, so he took advantage of this one or two seconds I was in the fixed position."
After the attack, Christian said, he felt no pain. He did lose his board but held on to his kite.
"I was in the water and didn't want to take the time to get on my board and tried to escape using . . . the kite at max power," he said. "My obsession was to make as many big jumps (with the pull of the kite in the wind) so I wouldn't stay a long time in the water because you're worried that he'd bite again and again and my leg would be finished."
He finally made it to shore.
"It was such a stressful situation at the moment, and being able to get back to shore was an immense relief," he said.
Firefighters, ocean safety officers, police and fellow kitesurfers came to the aid of the injured man. A lifeguard applied a dressing over a wound on Christian's right calf.
Witnesses said the shark had bitten his leg to the bone, but Christian said he "wasn't losing too much blood," thanks to another kitesurfer who tightly wrapped his right thigh with a leash.
Christian said the pain began to intensify as he was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center.
Since the attack, Christian has undergone two surgeries to severed tendons in his right calf muscle.
"It's getting better," he said, noting that one part of the muscle was bitten off. "I'll have to walk with crutches for six weeks and cannot lean on this leg."
His brother in France has arranged for him to complete additional surgeries in France later in the week, he said.
Christian was traveling with a friend but was kitesurfing alone that fateful day. When he told his family in France about the attack, they couldn't believe what had happened to him.
This was his third trip to Maui, "but the first time knowing how to kitesurf" after plying the waters elsewhere for the past two years. He and his friend were renting part of a house in Haiku during their stay.
Despite experiencing "stress like never before," Christian said that he did not want to sensationalize his story.
"The main story for me are the circumstances of the attack," he said. "Maybe it's not a good idea to make a turn. The fact is that it happened when I stopped for one second. I cannot believe it got me right when I stopped. . . . I'm sure this animal can decide to follow a human."
Responding to questions raised by Christian over the safety of the beach reopening the following day, Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said Monday that "waiting until noon of the following day is fairly conservative."
"Per our Aquatic Resources division, the shark protocol was developed by experts in ocean resource management, shark biology and behavior, ocean safety professionals, etc.," she said in an email. "Our current understanding of tiger shark movement behavior, which has now been well studied, indicates that the shark responsible for the bite would likely have been long gone within hours after the incident."
Maui County spokesman Rod Antone added Monday that beaches are carefully reopened on a "case-by-case basis."
"Our lifeguards and the Department of Land and Natural Resources do a thorough review of the area and if there's any present danger for beachgoers, they will not reopen the beach," he said. "But oftentimes (such as this), whatever shark activity is not there anymore."
Christian, who said that he is eager to return home, applauded the efforts of fellow beachgoers and lifeguards who helped him onshore.
"I was very happy with the way I was taken by the local medics, and I didn't wait much. I got to the hospital quite fast," he said. "All that happened very quickly. I'm thankful to all the people that helped me at the shore, and the hospital is doing a great job, as well."
Christian's attack was the second shark attack in a two-week period on Maui; the other occurred Oct. 23 in Waiehu's Kaehu Bay, where a man was injured but survived the attack. On Aug. 13, a kitesurfer reported her board being bitten by a shark near Kaa Point; she was unharmed. The next day, a German tourist died following an attack at Palauea Beach in Makena.
The website Hawaii Sharks, sponsored by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, has logged a total of five Maui shark attacks this year, not including the Aug. 13 and last week's attacks. The website said it logs attacks based on confirmed bites of people or boards.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.