While the presence of sharks is seldom enough to deter Maui's most avid watermen and -women, some say they are taking more precautions before entering the water in light of recent attacks.
"It does make you a lot more vigilant of your surroundings and more conscious of what the conditions are. If it's very dirty water or if the river has flooded and there's lots of debris, then I won't go in the water," Lahaina resident Roni Du Preez said as she was gearing up for a kitesurfing session Monday afternoon at Kaa Point, where Maui's most recent shark attack occurred less than a week ago.
On Thursday afternoon, a 45-year-old Frenchman, who identified himself only as Christian, was bitten in an area from his calf to his ankle while kitesurfing about 300 yards off Kaa Point at Kanaha Beach Park. He was conscious and coherent when taken by paramedics to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he was still recovering Monday.
At the same beach in August, a shark chomped down on an unmanned kiteboard as it was drifting to shore. Still, dozens of kitesurfers may be found at the popular beach on any given day, as long as there is wind. Kaa Point, arguably one of best kitesurfing spots in the world, has become so famous for the sport that it has been nicknamed "Kite Beach."
"(Ka'a Point) is the most conducive to kiteboarding. This is the best spot on the island with the most consistent winds more often throughout the year," said Du Preez, who has been kitesurfing for a decade and still fits in three to five sessions per week. "This sport has become very popular. It used to be sometimes on a busy day only 30 kites out, but now you could see sometimes up to 300 kites."
One kitesurfer said that the influx of people in the water would inevitably lead to more shark encounters.
"There's more people out there, so statistically you're going to have somebody run into something out there," said Makawao resident Greg Orlandella, who also was kitesurfing at Kaa Point on Monday afternoon. "It's their (sharks') space, and we have to remember we're going into their home. Awareness is the most important thing."
Avid spearfisherman Drew Young, who had a close encounter with a 10-foot-long tiger shark just last week, said he still dives at least three times a week, though not without having made some adjustments.
Sunday, October 27, 2013 afternoon, Young was spearfishing with some friends about 75 yards offshore at Maluaka Beach in Makena when the shark ate half of the fish on his line.
"A lot of times, I cut and clean my fish right there in the water; that may have contributed (to attracting the shark)," the Kihei resident said on Monday. "I probably won't be cleaning my fish until I get back into the dock when it's low visibility like that."
Young also invested in a Freedom 7 Shark Shield, the latest electronic shark-deterrent device, for days with low water visibility. The shield, which he called "a worthy investment," retails for upwards of $700.
"There's no fear that would keep me from entering our Hawaiian waters, my backyard," Young said. "It's just being smart and cautious and yielding when they (sharks) are more active."
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.