Surf contest called off, witnesses spot ‘aggressive’ shark at Bowls
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Surf contest called off, witnesses spot ‘aggressive’ shark at Bowls

Jul 25, 2023

by: Nicole Napuunoa, Nikki Schenfeld

Posted: Apr 28, 2023 / 11:06 AM HST

Updated: Apr 29, 2023 / 08:09 PM HST

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A surf contest was called off at Ala Moana Bowls on Friday afternoon after witnesses spotted an ‘aggressive’ shark just feet away from two children who were surfing in the contest.

The incident happened around 11 a.m. and City officials said a 12-foot shark was sighted in the lineup at Ala Moana Bowls.

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One witness told KHON2 she spotted a large fin in the shallow water nearby.

“I saw a fin pop out from the corner of my eye and I was like, ‘Oh it’s probably just a turtle we seen turtles every day,’ and then I started seeing thrashing and the other two surfers react, and when I saw the fin I was like, that’s big enough for me [to get out],” said surfer Crystal Casiano, who was about 10 feet away when the shark started thrashing near the girls.

Witnesses said the 11-year-old division was in the water at the time the shark sighting occurred.

“There was a lot of white water, and Kamalani went over on the ski, and noticed it was a 10 to12 foot tiger shark thrashing around,” said rescue craft safety operator Abe Lerner. “So we got all the contestants out of the water and re-evaluated and made a decision to cancel the event for the day just for safety reasons.”

“Sharks are always out there, and we see them all the time, and I see reef sharks and it’s never really bothered me before,” Casiano said. “I think it was just the aggressive nature of it.”

Witnesses also said the shark was about 12 feet in length.

KHON2 spoke with shark experts who said it’s highly unlikely that it was the same shark that bit Mike Morita three weeks ago at Kewalos which is just a few breaks down from Bowls due to its size difference.

“Tiger sharks move around a heck of a lot, so it’s extremely unlikely this fish is the same one,” explained Dr. Andrew Rossiter, Waikiki Aquarium director. “However, the fact it happened where it did, could be due to the same reason, we had a lot of rain yesterday that came down the mountains, flushed out the Ala Wai into the ocean and all those interesting smells and tastes will draw the shark to investigate.”

Dr. Rossiter said the thrashing behavior is typical when they have something in their jaws.

“Trying to break off a piece of meat, probably a shell I would guess, and I would also guess this shark was eating a turtle and trying to break off a semi-circle of shell and meat,” Dr. Rossiter added.

KHON2 asked if the contest organizers made the right decision to call off the event on Friday.

“Absolutely, yes,” Dr. Rossiter said. “Absolutely, yes — when a shark is in the water in those conditions, they are extremely unpredictable and it’s too easy for the shark to make a mistake.”

Contest organizers said they hope to resume the contest Saturday morning and will check the area again.

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