A veteran canoe paddler is grateful to be alive after encountering a shark off Kauai's south shore.
Tom Bartlett's one-man canoe was severely damaged after a shark bit his vessel twice about a half mile offshore.
Poipu to Salt Pond is a popular training run for canoe paddlers on Kauai's south shore and one Tom Bartlett makes four times a week. But on Tuesday just before 3 p.m., Bartlett's run came to a screeching halt when he was hit by a shark.
"Startling to see a shark with its jaws open latched on to the front of the boat," said Bartlett by phone from Kauai. "I tried to swing at but I was too far back."
Bartlett says the shark let go but returned seconds later.
"Then it came around and hit the right side of the boat about a foot in front of the foot well, again you know open jaw," he said. "I think I got it with the paddle."
Bartlett was with six other paddlers who were unaware he'd been hit. His canoe immediately started taking on water.
"The boat is slowly going down deeper and deeper and it submarining," said Bartlett. "I was just on the surface of the water basically."
He eventually reached shore near Palama Beach and carried his canoe through coffee fields to a sub-division where he called for help. By then friends had called 911 but he was safe.
"I've heard tales before about them taking chunks off but he wasn't like ripping and tearing. He just kind of grasped onto the boat."
Bartlett doesn't know what type of shark bit his canoe or how large it was. He says teeth marks show the animal's jaw measured 13-inches wide.
"One big hole about the size of a 50 cent piece."
Bartlett is the father of world champion paddler Kai Bartlett who is married to women's world champion Lauren Bartlett.
Lauren's father Mike Spalding was also attacked by a shark in March of '09 while swimming off Maui. His attack gained national attention when researchers determined he was the first documented case of cookie cutter shark attack on a live person.
"His was certainly was much worse," he said. "Yeah we have a lot in common, we both love the water and we're in it as much as we can."
Bartlett laughs about the experience but knows he got lucky.
"I was in the water and that's when I was the most anxious just didn't want that guy coming back again when I was in that position," said Bartlett. "Thank God I didn't get bit."