Surfer talks about surviving shark attack at Kewalo Basin
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Surfer talks about surviving shark attack at Kewalo Basin

Jul 23, 2023

by: Nicole Napuunoa, Manolo Morales

Posted: Apr 11, 2023 / 12:21 PM HST

Updated: Apr 15, 2023 / 04:13 PM HST

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Mike Morita said he’s grateful to be alive after a shark bit him on Sunday off of Kewalo Basin.

Morita said he lost his right foot to a shark bite and has a long way to recovery. But he’s not dwelling on that. Morita said he’s just happy to be alive, and deeply grateful to those who helped save him.

According to Morita, he was surfing with friends, the water was crystal clear and they were catching small waves. He was lying on his board, waiting for the waves to come in when he said he felt something bite his leg.

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“It wasn’t really like a chomp. It was just pressure,” Morita said, “I can feel the strength of it and right away I knew it was a shark.”

Morita’s friends told him that the shark pulled him underwater and was shaking him back and forth.

The 58-year-old says he started punching the shark but wasn’t very effective underwater. So he wound up wrapping his arms and legs around the shark to get to its eyes.

“I wrapped my arm around it and my body around it. And at that point I was trying to go for the eyes but my hand ended up by the gills. So as soon as I touched by the gills it let go,” Morita recalled of the moment he was freed by the shark.

He said he couldn’t believe the courage of his friends — to paddle towards him to help, while the shark was still on him.

“They said when they reached me, the shark was still on me, so they were scared for their lives too but when it finally let go, they were there for me. They were in shock also,” said Morita.

So they put him on a board to get him out of the water but when Morita saw his leg, he knew they had to stop the bleeding.

“My friends tied tourniquets on my leg with their leashes and that’s hard to do, hard to tie a leash and use it as a tourniquet,” he said.

That, he said is what saved his life and first responders said as much. He is grateful to friends, first responders, and hospital staff. He said he also has a renewed appreciation for life and the love of his family. He’s also sharing his story because he’s hoping it can help others.

“It’s a close community we got out there and we always look out for each other. And sure enough, when I needed it, they came together and they came to me and they saved my life,” he said.

“I want everybody to learn from this and maybe this can inspire other people who are going through some tough times that we can get through things and I’m just grateful to be alive,” said Morita.

Morita remains in the trauma center but is in great spirits. He said, at first, he didn’t want to talk about the incident but decided he wanted to use his story to encourage others who face adversity.

Kewalos is a regular spot where Morita surfs and he said he’s seen sharks there before.

According to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website, the last time a shark attack was reported in Kewalos was in 2002. Marine experts said the recent rainy weather may have contributed to the incident.

“And it’s right at the mouth of the Ala Wai Canal so all the water that runs down the mountains and feeds into the Ala Wai was being flushed down there, and that carries all these interesting scents and smells and garbage and things that will just attract the sharks in from outside,” said Andrew Rossiter, Waikiki Aquarium Director.

Officials said Morita was bitten by an eight-foot tiger shark, which is fairly common in that area.

“They see them practically every time they’re there, but on this occasion, it was about an 8-foot-long shark so probably an adolescent, a little bit less selective in what it’s gonna bite,” said Rossiter.

“I’m gonna have to be going into the pit with a prosthetic. You know, and doing it. But I’ll do it,” joked Morita of his full-time job as a ramp serviceman for United Airlines, as he also thanked his co-workers for their support.

Morita said that he would like to surf again, when the time is right.

“I’m so thankful to be alive,” said Morita, “That’s my message, thank you and I appreciate the love.”

He says he would like to surf again, even though he knows he’s a long way from that.

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“The doctors are telling me that it’s up to me whether what I’m going to do. Yes I’d like to surf again but if I never surf again I’m still happy, I’ll be alright,” he said.

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