Maui charger Kaleo Roberson defends his kids from 10-15 foot shark at Maalaea
Never underestimate the value of a good glass job. Last weekend Kaleo Roberson took his three young sons, Steve, Justin and Eric (named after fallen Maui surfers Steve Cooney, Justin Roberson and Eric Diaz) surfing at Maalaea Freight Trains. For all intents and purposes it was just another fun day in the water with dad, but about an hour into the session things went from fun to terrifying.
"Everything was normal, we'd all caught about ten waves each, then off to the left towards the channel I saw this weird ripple, like a weird current," recounts Roberson. "The all of a sudden I see this mouth the size of a trash can coming at me. This shark was so big all I could see was its open mouth charging right at me and the kids."
With the Tiger shark charging towards him in shallow water, Roberson was able to go into evasive action.
"As it came at me I gave it this Heisman trophy move giving it a good stiff arm. There was no thinking, it was just pure reaction," describes Roberson.
And while the Roberson clan is known throughout Maui for being some of the most savvy watermen, the violent shark attack was enough to momentarily rattle the man.
"At that point I let out this girly cry and started slapping and kicking at the water," continues Roberson. "But something came over me and I knew my three sons were right there and I had to do something right now. Something came over me, like I was Braveheart, and I went mental."
Reacting purely on instinct, Roberson swung his board at the shark, lodging it into its jaws.
"It was a Mayhem made with Keahana epoxy, which is this new Brazilian epoxy that's super strong -- you can run over it with a car," says Roberson. "I swung my board at that thing a few times and used a few tactics I've learned from being in fights in the water over the years. I must have got lucky with a couple good blows."
By this point the shark probably decided it had picked the wrong prey and tried to beat a hasty retreat. As it turned to swim off Roberson was struck by its tail, throwing him eight feet through the water.
Regaining his composure, Roberson made sure his sons were able to catch whitewater waves in towards the safety of shore.
"My boys were taken care of, but we had a photographer out there with us shooting fisheye shots and he called for help," says Roberson. "So he jumped on my back and we started paddling in. It was pretty comical, this 200-pound Hawaiian guy on my back all seized up with fear."
With only a 6'3" under him Roberson, who weighs in close to 220 pounds and the photographer, who refused to help paddle or kick, slowly made their way towards the shore, which was approximately 100 yards away.
"We finally get to the beach, we're like two feet from the sand, and the guy still won't get off of my back," says Roberson. "We had to just laugh once we got on the beach and I finally convinced him to let go of his death grip."
With his family and friends safely ashore, they watched what Roberson estimated to be a 15-foot Tiger stalk up and down the beach for the next 10 to 15 minutes.
Interestingly, 15 minutes before the incident lifeguards had been monitoring a 14-foot shark that had been tagged with a satellite transmitter via a computer application. Roberson's convinced it was the same shark. As they say, "There's an app for that."