(KHON) — The man who lost his leg in a shark attack off Oahu’s North Shore last week says he’s healing and trying to stay strong.
Colin Cook, 25, was surfing at a popular surf spot called Leftovers last Friday when the shark bit him.
It was the fifth shark attack in Hawaii this year.
On Friday, we heard from Cook directly, for the first time since the attack. He even brought the surfboard he was on when he was attacked.
The surfer from Rhode Island has been living in Hawaii for several years. He says he’s been to Leftovers nearly every day since he got here.
“(I) was out there waiting for a wave and pretty much out of nowhere I felt like a truck ran into me and kind of took me a second to realize what was going on,” he said. “He dragged me underwater, and it took me a second to realize it was a massive shark and it was on my leg.”
Cook said he punched what he believed to be a 12-foot tiger shark, broke free, swam to the surface and called for help.
Keoni Bowthorpe rushed over to help his friend. He got Colin on his eight-foot board and they paddled back to shore.
“I had no idea that his hands were so damaged at the time, and he held on the entire time,” Bowthorpe said. “We got hit by waves and sets and the shark was not going away and continued to follow us in, but I couldn’t have more respect for this guy.”
“It was a persistent shark and it just kind of kept coming around and coming after us and he had to fight it off with a paddle,” Cook said.
He credits Bowthorpe for saving his life, “definitely was like an angel, ascending from heaven.”
Doctors had to amputate most of his left leg after the attack, and his hands were also injured when he punched the shark.
“When they took me to the hospital, they had to do an amputation right above the knee. Unfortunately, I lost just above the knee down, and hands, my left hand, I lost part of my middle finger, and index finger and pinky finger kind of got all chewed up, but they were able to stitch those back together and keep them together,” Cook explained.
Cook took his first step two days after he got to the hospital. He said even moving an inch was a huge hurdle.
He was released from Queen’s Medical Center Friday and moved to Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific to continue his recovery.
Doctors say he can be in the water in a month and, when he’s ready, he’ll start surfing again.
“It’s a day-by-day process definitely. The first few days, four or five days, were really hard, and I just, day-by-day, getting better slowly,” he said. “It would be a dream come true to somehow raise some awareness actually for the sharks.”
Cook says this isn’t his first encounter with a shark. He saw one several years ago while surfing in Rhode Island.