HONOLULU (KHON) – A 14-year-old Hawaii boy survived a shark bite while surfing at North Beach on Kaneohe Marine Corp Base on May 3.
Parker Blanchette is used to seeing sharks when he’s out surfing and spearfishing, and he has also had a fascination with them. He had been surfing for about three hours when he rode a wave and hopped off his board, “and immediately I was bit by a shark right in the leg,” he said.
“It felt pretty darn normal, I was just hopping off a wave and it felt like a little punch to my leg, and I immediately hopped on my board after seeing the blood, and I paddled to shore,” he added.
The eighth-grader says it felt like it lasted half a second.
“It was so fast, I didn’t even get a good grip but I kind of pushed it off by the lower jaw,” said Parker, who believes the shark was about five and a half feet in length.
“I felt pretty darn cool once I got bit,” he added.
Parker paddled back to shore and his friend helped him onto the beach. Lifeguards jumped on ATVs and assisted him to the tower before cleaning him up while they waited for paramedics to arrive.
Then he called his mom.
“He was so chill, I actually didn’t expect it to be that big of a deal,” Amanda Blanchette said. “He said, ‘Hey mom, I need you to come pick me up, I was bit by a shark and I’m going to need couple of stitches,’ and I got down here and it was more than a couple of stitches.”
She says her son remained calm the entire time and was even cracking jokes with the lifeguards and his friends. His calmness helped her keep cool, too.
“Parker was here, his heart was beating, he was laughing, he had a leg, I was pumped,” she said.
Amanda Blanchette, originally from Illinois, said her son inspires her.
“It actually encourages me to go back out there. I’m from Illinois, I didn’t grow up with the ocean and seeing how brave Parker is, it inspires me to be more comfortable in the water,” Amanda said.
The teenager was taken to the hospital, where the surgeon told Amanda that her son needed over 100 stitches.
“It’s almost like a miracle because I have an artery around there, which it could have hit… it was like less than an inch away from that area,” Parker explained.
Parker is eager to get back into the water.
“Even though there’s a lot of sharks, don’t be scared of the water, we’re kind of in their area,” he said.
“I would never want him to live his life in fear,” his mom said. “Just get back out there and live a big life, that’s what I always tell him.”
Lifeguards at North Beach say it is the first shark attack at North Beach in recorded history.
“This is the first time we’ve encountered a shark attack, although we have so much sharks that pass through this area, it wasn’t a question of if it was going to happen, it was a question of when it happens,” explained Clark Abbey, beach lifeguard supervisor.
Abbey says they see the most sharks from late April to early June.
“During this period in time there’s a lot because they’re trying to give birth to their pups in Kaneohe Bay so this is the tip of the peninsula,” he explained. “So they sweep their way in from the deep, through North, through Pyramid and then they go around Pyramid and find their way into the bay and they give birth to their pups.”
He says other sharks then go feed off of that.
“So we see anywhere between five-feet and 20-foot tigers, hammers, reef sharks, all kinds,” he said.
He also says there are a lot of fish in the area too.
“When Parker got bit, we think it was probably a mistaken identity and when the shark found out it wasn’t fish that it wanted, he let him go,” he explained. “So, glad it wasn’t worse, it could have been worse but it turned out pretty good.”
Abbey says if anyone sees a shark in the water, respect it, leave the water and surf another day.