Surfer in Hawaii punches shark, hits it with board to stop attack

WAILUKU, Hawaii  – A man surfing with his three young sons used his fist and surfboard to fend off a weekend shark attack in waters off Maui.

That encounter and another one Monday prompted state officials to again warn people to stay out of murky water after a hurricane that churned past the state.

Kaleo Roberson of Haiku was among a group of about 20 people surfing Saturday at a site known as Freight Trains, off Maalaea, in waves that were 3 to 4 feet high, the Maui News reported ( He was holding one of his 8-year-old twins when a 12- to 14-foot tiger shark appeared.

Roberson said he saw a massive open mouth and teeth a few feet from him.

“It was something you dream of on ‘Shark Week,”’ he said. “It was so close to me, and the mouth was so open when it came up. It was in pure attack mode, and it was just right there. I was basically in its mouth.”

Roberson slid off his board to put it between him and the shark. He then punched and kicked the predator.

“Right then, I realized I was fighting for my life, and I had my sons with me so I took my board, and I started swinging it,” he said.

His other two sons also were within 10 feet of the shark. Roberson said he was thinking of them as he swung his board.

“I don’t care if this thing bites me, but if my pride and joys are making it to the beach safe, then I’ll feed this thing my leg if I have to,” he said.

A friend, John Patao, was about 5 feet away taking pictures of his son and other surfers when he saw Roberson fighting off the shark.

“Everyone went into survival mode,” Patao said. “The shark was attacking him and bit his board one time, and after that the shark was circling him.”

Patao said he helped Roberson get his sons to safety, and then he and Roberson swam to shore together.

“We were yelling for everybody to get in because we were worried about the kids,” Patao said.

No one was injured, but the shark left a 14-inch bite mark on Roberson’s board.

Police, lifeguards and state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials cleared other people out of the water. The department temporarily closed 3 to 4 miles of nearby beaches.

On Monday, a standup paddle boarder reported that a hard bump on the back of his board knocked him into the water at Maui’s Kahului Harbor. When the 58-year-old man surfaced, he saw a dorsal fin about 6 feet away. There were bite marks on the board.

The encounters happened in water that was murky from Hurricane Ana, which missed directly hitting Hawaii over the weekend but still delivered heavy rain, high surf and strong winds. Officials asked people to stay out of the ocean, saying brown water from runoff could attract sharks.

Kahului Harbor waters and waters a mile in each direction will be closed until at least Tuesday, the natural resources department said in a statement.

The agency also issued a reminder: “Again, please follow the strong warnings not to enter the ocean for any reason when the water is brown or murky.”