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12/10/2007 Tino Ramirez (Hawaii) No Injury

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12/10/2007 Tino Ramirez (Hawaii) No Injury

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No InjuryShark gets tangled in Hawaii surfer's gear

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser North Shore Writer

Tino Ramirez, of Waialua, shows his bitten surfboard. Ramirez was off the North Shore on Monday when a shark got tangled in his leash and eventually bit itself free.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

Teeth marks are visible on the surfboard of North Shore surfer Tino Ramirez, after a shark got caught in his leash Monday.

A surfer is still marveling at his encounter with a suspected tiger shark that wrestled his board away after becoming entangled in its leash.

Tino Ramirez, who has surfed the North Shore for 40 years, said the shark thrashed about and pulled the surfboard backward and forward in an effort to break free. At one point the board was standing up in the water with its tail down as the shark tried to shake itself loose, he said.

"I felt helpless," said Ramirez, a former reporter for The Advertiser. "I slid off my board to try to get more control over my board. It (the shark) wouldn't let go and kept thrashing around."

He had to give up and let go. As he did so, the shark bit the board and severed the leash, freeing itself.

Ramirez likened the battle over control of the board to a person trying to take a bone from a dog. The harder you pull, the stronger the dog holds on, Ramirez said.

"It felt like that but on a much grander scale," he said. "It (the shark) was amazingly powerful."

Monday was a day off for Ramirez, who works at the University of Hawai'i, and he had just entered the water at Kaiaka State Recreation Area to surf a spot called Walls. Ten minutes of paddling and about 200 yards from shore, he said, he felt a bump from below. The next thing he knew, he was being pulled backward as the shark thrashed about.

All the time on the board he couldn't see the animal. But once in the water, he said, he saw a dorsal fin about 1 foot high and the gray body of a shark that he estimated to be 6 to 8 feet long.

"I was in disbelief, kind of annoyed that this was happening and just trying to figure out how to make it stop," Ramirez said. "That was my biggest concern."

Once the shark bit the board and severed the leash, the board popped out of the water and Ramirez said he jumped back on top of it and paddled out where three surfers were catching waves.

He told them about the incident and paddled back to shore because he said it wasn't safe to surf without a leash.

Ramirez said that in his four decades of surfing he has seen about a dozen sharks and about half of them at this location.

He said he didn't think the shark was out to eat him.

"My feeling is it bumped me and figured I wasn't food and it got tangled in my leash as it was going away," Ramirez said. "I think it was just a big mistake on the shark's part."

Warning signs remained at Kaiaka Bay Beach Park yesterday.


Meanwhile, Randy Honebrink, with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, examined Ramirez's board and the teeth marks on it. As part of his duties, he records shark attacks and sends the information to the International Shark Attack File in Florida.

Given the tooth impression on the board, Honebrink said, the animal was probably a tiger shark, known to look for food at the water's surface. The muddy water caused by last week's heavy rains could have made it difficult for the animal to tell what was there, he said.

"It would not have been able to discern what the surfboard was until he got really close," said Honebrink, education coordinator for the Division of Aquatic Resources.

The DLNR issues warnings about not swimming or surfing in dirty water after storms because sharks are likely to linger there, he said.

Honebrink said it was the first time he had ever heard of a shark getting tangled in a leash.

As for Ramirez, he said he plans to go right back in the water.

"I was in the water with it. If it had wanted to eat me, it could have done that right there," Ramirez said.

"I'm more scared of driving the freeway. That's what really scares me."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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