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03/19/2023 Andy Walberer, 50 Hawaii

2023 Shark Attacks the Latest Shark Attacks and Shark Attack Related Incidents which include Fatal Attacks to minor injuries bites and attacks where the person fought an aggressive shark.
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03/19/2023 Andy Walberer, 50 Hawaii

Post by alb »

A deep-water swimmer averted serious injury when he forcibly grabbed and threw two attacking cookiecutter sharks.

Andy Walberer, 50, had smeared himself with diaper cream before he started his Molokai channel swim March 19 at 5:58 p.m.

The experienced swimmer was followed by a support kayak sporting two shark deterrent devices both with 4- to 6-foot cables attached.

His swim was going well until he was approximately 12 miles off the coast. Around 11:55 p.m. Walberer was 200 to 300 yards behind his support boat and 5 to 6 feet from the support kayak when he felt something hit his chest.

“I was 95% sure it was a cookiecutter when I was bit,” he told Tracking Sharks.

“I felt its narrow, slimy, wrinkly body in my right hand as soon as I closed my hand around it.”

Walberer had consulted a medical journal in preparation for the swim and read about other cookiecutter shark bites in the area and knew exactly what he was holding.

He grasped the shark, which he estimated was about 1.5 inches round, and threw it as far as he could and, amazingly, he kept on swimming. A few seconds later he was hit a second time and initially thought he hadn’t thrown the shark far enough away, but he repeated the motion on the second shark and threw it as hard he could. He later learned cookiecutter sharks tend to hunt in pairs, and this was the second shark.

“I was pretty freaked out in that moment. It was near midnight on a moonless night. I was 12 to 15 miles from both Molokai and Oahu and the kayak near me was only lit with 4 or 5 red glow sticks, so I could not see much,” he said.

After 30 or so seconds, he was able to regain his composure, touched his stomach and, not feeling any major damage, he continued swimming.

Once he stopped, treading water and intaking some calories, he had his support crew shine a light to look for any damage. He continued swimming for 6 1/2 hours but tried to stay close to the kayak and its protective shark shields, which gave him a little comfort.

He credits his crew for staying calm throughout the ordeal which helped him stay calm and focus on swimming.

Cookiecutter sharks use suction to suck in flesh and then quickly spin to remove a large circle of flesh from their victims. Walberer wondered if the diaper cream he coated on his body before the swim prevented the shark’s mouth from making a good seal on his chest.

He advises other open ocean swimmers to quickly grab any fish that bumps into them. If it is a cookiecutter shark, they may be able to throw it away before it causes serious damage. Walberer shared his story so others may learn from his encounter.

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