AFTERMATH OF SHARK ATTACK ON THE NORTH SHORE
Colin Cook's detailed account of vicious attack at Leftovers
On October 9, Colin Cook was attacked by what’s been estimated to be a 13-foot tiger shark. Sitting on his board at Leftovers on the North Shore of Oahu, the attack left him without a left leg and severe wounds on his left hand. But in a testament to his character, Cook appears to be making a strong recovery.
“It’s a day-by-day process, but it’s getting better. I’m healing up fast,” tells Cook. “The first five or six days were hard, but since I got over the hump each day is just getting better and better. Now I’m at a physical therapy and rehabilitation hospital.”
“Unfortunately, they [the doctors] weren’t able to save the knee because it more or less got ripped off,” continues Cook.
Throughout the ordeal, Cook remained conscious and lucid. His recollections of the attack and subsequent heroic response of a nearby stand-up paddler are all-together terrifying.
“I was out for about an hour and a half and the waves weren’t big or anything -- it was only five-, six-foot faces. I was just out there waiting for a wave and all of the sudden out of nowhere this monstrous thing just slams me,” describes Cook. “I didn’t see it coming or anything, and next thing I know I’m underwater. I’m looking around to see where it is, and you know…the shark’s like on my leg. My whole leg was in its mouth. It also did a lot of damage to my left hand. There were huge chunks, and gushing blood. I pushed my hand against its face, and with my right hand just punched it. Right in the nose, and that’s when I got the shark to get off, and I was able to swim up.”
Once on the surface, Cook was able to call for help and begin what would be a fight for his life. Keoni Bowthorpe was nearby on his stand-up board and saw it all. He responded immediately. “I was probably about 100 to 150 yards away when I saw the shark hit him,” says Bowthorpe, who also lives and surfs nearby.
“He paddled over while the shark was still on me -- it was still swimming around me,” explains Cook. “The shark was still dragging me by my board. It was just dragging me around and he was able to hit it with his paddle.”
“I didn’t see it coming or anything, and next thing I know I’m underwater. I’m looking around to see where it is, and you know…the shark’s like on my leg. My whole leg was in its mouth."
Bowthorpe, who’s a filmmaker by trade and has spent the last six months working on a shark-related project, struck the animal with the blade of his paddle in an effort to redirect it. He tried to get Cook to grab his leash, but the injuries to his hands made that impossible.
“I was finally able to get close enough to him that I just jumped on his back,” says Cook. “He was able to hit it with the paddle, and just kept pushing the shark away. So yeah, I just jumped on his back. Then I remember seeing my leg. I just couldn’t believe it. I just kept saying, ‘Dude, I’m going to pass out.’”
“My stand-up board is pretty small, and once I was able to get Colin on my back I gave the shark one more whack, let go of my paddle and started to prone-paddle him in,” says Bowthorpe.
Not out of the woods by any means, the shark maintained its pursuit. Cook was quickly bleeding out. Paddling in over the reef, the shark followed them all the way to beach. Once on shore several other people quickly responded.
“On the way in Colin and I were able to catch a wave that helped close the distance to shore,” explains Bowthorpe. “That was key, because with the weight of us both the board was underwater and so was I. Colin passed out a few times and I had to pull him on my back, but he always held on. He never let go, even with his damaged hand. He’s a real champion.”
“We made it to the beach and there were some people there that kind of saw what was going on. Somebody got a leash and tied a tourniquet, and somebody else called 911,” says Cook. “I was fading out of consciousness a little bit, but I was staying pretty calm. I was talking to people, asking like where’s the ambulance, and just asking questions. From there on, like from the beach to the hospital, it went by real quick. It only felt like seconds.”
The reaction from the surf community was immediate. Cook, originally from Rhode Island, is a neighbor and understudy to shaping icon John Carper. As word of Colin’s attack spread on social media, the outpouring of support buoyed his spirits. Everyone from Shane Dorian to Kelly Slater made Instagram posts to help and a Go Fund Me page (https://www.gofundme.com/surfcolin) was set up for Cook. Thus far it has raised over $60,000.
“All the support is incredible. I don’t have a Facebook or an Instagram. All my friends kind of made one for me while this happened and created this ‘Go Fund Me’ thing. And that’s just been going off huge. That’s my goal, you know…just get back out in the water and surf the best I can as soon as possible,” says Cook.
Support and all won’t ease the pain Cook’s currently going through. “Just trying to fall asleep, it really hurts. I have this thing; it’s called the phantom leg. I still feel like my leg is still there. I feel all the nerves going down to my toes. I can still feel like I’m wiggling my toes, tingling in my feet, and it is not even there.”
“The big thing is having a good mindset,” continues Cook. “That’s the hardest part. I know the waves are good today. Surfing is my life. I grew up surfing in Rhode Island. Then I moved out to Hawaii and got into building boards, so I’ve been doing that. I’ve been working for a lot of great guys over here and then started my own company. I came to the North Shore looking to start my own thing.”