PORTLAND, Ore. – Tom Kennedy said he started swimming for his life after a 10-foot tiger shark took a bite out of his left leg.
“I knew that I only had one way to possibly survive, and that was to get away and get to my board,” Kennedy said.
The 61-year-old Lake Oswego man was on vacation with his family in Maui. He said he joked with his family and friends about a shark attack before they went out for some snorkeling and paddle boarding in a cove on West Maui’s Kihei Beach.
“Not seriously. It wasn’t anything we were really concerned about,” he said.
The jokes turned into a serious reality on Friday, when a 10-foot tiger shark took a piece out of Kennedy’s left leg.
“I was cruising along at a pretty good clip when I felt this thing grab me on the left leg,” said Kennedy.
He said it didn’t hurt very much. He first thought one of his snorkeling partners was tugging at his leg.
Then he looked over his shoulder.
“I could see the shark’s left eye and his nose and face as he had a grip on me and then he let go,” he said. “My first reaction was ‘this can’t be real. That’s really a shark.’ And I could see his eye, and I could see his mouth and nose and I thought ‘I don’t believe it.’”
The shark pulled him under for a moment. When it let go, Kennedy swam to the surface and yelled to his friends to get out of the water. Then he swam as fast as he could back to his board.
“When I reached the board, I just crawled on, and then I was able to examine my wound.”
A canoe team watching turtles saw Kennedy and took him to shore.
A surgeon in Hawaii who specializes in shark attacks treated his injuries, but could not close the wounds because of potential infections, which Kennedy said is a common concern with shark bites.
Kennedy and his family will fly to Portland on Tuesday. He said he may go through more surgeries after he returns home.
He plans to go back to Maui, and says he’s not afraid to go back in the water.
“The odds of me being bitten twice are almost impossible to calculate.”