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Old 04-01-2014, 03:47 PM
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Default Report: Shark Attack On Kiter, Delray Beach, FL 3.22.14

The blacktip/spinner shark migration had been underway for some weeks off South Florida. Intermittent shark sightings off Northern Broward and Palm Beach counties by kiters had happened with some frequency for over a month. Kurt Hoffman and three friends came down to Kitebeach in Delray for a downwinder north to Lake Worth on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Before the guys could head down the coast, a squall came up boosting the wind which subsequently died in the post-storm low. They stayed on the beach as the storm passed for stable conditions to return so they could head out kiting. Eventually the low passed and the wind returned. They were kiting off Delray Kite Beach or roughly 500 ft. south of Casurina Road and south of the public beach. Kurt had been riding for over a dozen years, is an instructor, does kite repair and is a very well experienced kiter.





The accident happened around 10 to 10:30 AM. The wind was southeast 16 to 20 mph with shoulder high waves (about 4 ft.) with nice well formed faces. Low tide was listed at 10:49 am that morning for the area. Kurt estimated water depth was below 6 feet and was approximately 35 to 40 yards offshore at the time of the attack. Sand bars can form parallel to the shore in Delray setting up some nice wave breaks around that distance offshore.



The iKitesurf wind graph for Boynton Beach to the north of the riding area that day.


Kurt had seen 2 to 3 sharks that morning but none spinning out of the water. Large quantities of migrating sharks had been seen in the area at isolated times in recent weeks. He had seen neither jumping bait nor feeding seabirds or other evidence of feeding shark activity. The sun was still low in the east so viewing of the ocean and submerged sharks therein was difficult around that time. There were both clear and murky areas of water related to the waves as well as dredging and beach restoration activities occurring to the north on Delray Beach.



Migrating sharks can be seems at times in wave crests.
Photo: J. Langolis, Palm Beach Daily News
http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/ne...ose-bea/nWhW4/


He was riding in old Santa Cruz 6'3" surfboard with no straps and a deck pad. He was flying a 12 m≤ Naish kite. He been kiting for a while had done about eight tacks for approximately an hour before the attack. He was heading out to the northeast when he saw a wave set coming in and decided to do a turn to the southwest "smacking" the lip of the wave during the transition. He was riding toe-side to the face and after transitioning to the southwest put his left arm back to drag through the wave face. The wind was gusting so he leaned in the face immersing his arm to his elbow or bicep. The kite stalled a little bit hesitating at this point.

At this moment the shark bit his arm momentarily and pulled back. His left foot came off the board and his hip slammed into the shark. Initially thought he hit debris as there was lots floating around. His right foot was still on the board. At this time he still didn't realize that a shark had bitten him.

The shark hit his forearm and bone and Kurt said you can almost hear it hit and release. He initially thought he had hit a floating board with nails which cut him. He could see a gray brown mass in the murky water and thought it was his kite board but then he remembered his board was still under him? He saw the bleeding puncture wounds and finally concluded it was a shark bite. His body was half in the water with his right arm and leg still on the board. As he dove the kite down hard he got on the board on his stomach and sined the kite rapidly to shoot in the shore at best possible speed.

He was trying to keep his head to be able to land and get out of the situation safely. He maintain the kite high and under control as he headed into beach. When he was on the beach he yelled at his friend ďshark biteĒ while another kiter helped to land his kite. He indicated there was about 15 to 20 puncture wounds and his forearm.He grabbed his phone to call his wife. His arm wasn't gushing but was seeping and was covered with blood. His friend wanted to put a tourniquet on it. Kurt decided not to have a tourniquet applied to his arm.



Kurt at the beach before having things wrapped up.


He went to see the lifeguards who cleaned and bandaged the wound and called EMTs. The EMTís arrived and cleaned and dressed the wounds again. Eventually he was taken to the Delray medical center about two hours after the attack. Particularly strong pain set in during the trip to the hospital. X-rays were taken and the puncture wounds cleaned out. The doctor wanted to leave the wounds open to allow the seepage to try to clean out bacteria from the shark bite. The wounds were cleaned and dressed at the hospital for a third time. He had waited in the emergency room for about an hour.



Kurt showing the shark bite radius which he estimated at around 7 inches.
Photo: Diane Hoffman


His forearm swelled up approximately 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter. Butterfly band-aids were placed over the puncture wounds. He was was given a tetanus shot and a prescription to fill for an oral antibiotic. At the time of the telephone interview he has lost a little arm strength and there was still some pain but he felt he was recovering.



Photo: Diane Hoffman


Kurt had seen Blacktip/spinner sharks many times offshore and seen them hunt fish during the migration. He said it was strange to feel that something was hunting him and actually took a bite out of him. He dwelled on the sensation of being hunted by another animal as particularly disturbing.



Large numbers of migrating sharks can move close to shore at times. Then at other times there can be large gaps in concentrations of sharks.
Photo http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/ne...lorida-/ndRXx/

Kurt started kiting in 2001 in Honolulu, Hawaii training with the with the Wipika school. He had a Taiwanese instructor with very poor English. They charged modern $125 for a whole day of instruction. He took off a year and a half in the intervening time from kiting. He had been surfing since the age of 18 and originally was from Ohio. He is currently 43 years of age. He was certified as a PASA kiting instructor under Paul Menta in 2005. He currently instructs kiting and does Kite Repair. He worked with Neil at Tiki Beach for a time. He also has been employed as a graphic designer.

I asked him what advice he might give to another Kiter in avoiding what happened to him. He tells his students, that the ocean is the sharks home. There is the possibility of one or hundreds being out there at times. One may hit you someday. If your kite goes down and youíre going to be in the water, you should know what you want to do and where you want to go and how you are going to do it. He said the students often donít consider these things in advance.

I asked Kurt for contact info on some witnesses, he passed on info for Paul and Brian. Paul is a critical care registered nurse and Kurtís friend. He last noticed Kurt a few hundred yards away or next he saw him he was on the beach with a bloody arm. He thought that Kurt had skegged himself with his board fin. Paul apply direct pressure pressure while still flying his own kite, blood was dripping steadily from Kurtís arm but not gushing. Paul had seen a few sharks that morning. Later on that day kiters had seen a large shark dorsal fin about 30 feet off the beach around the time when Kurt was being transported to the hospital. Paul said there were large well formed waves approximately 8 to 10 feet in height on the outside and smaller on the inside. He put Kurts gear away and noted that later on that day they were 20 to 30 guys out with a lot of sharks visible.

Brian confirmed the general conditions and circumstances of the accident as he had observed them. He stated he had been riding into shore close to Kurt when he beached yelling he had been bitten by a shark. Brian stated that he was happy the accident was a minor thing. I asked Brian what he might do differently in the future and he said he wouldn't do anything differently. I did say that in the milliseconds of the attack had Kurtís brachial artery could have been severed or elbow or hand bitten and the outcome could've been far more severe. It was mere chance that it was benign as it was. He agreed but still viewed the accident as a minor thing and offered no additional comment.

In truth by some scales the attack was minor, requiring no stitches and with no apparently permanent disability, fortunately. It could have happened differently but thankfully did not. Still, if you are attacked, what kind of attack are you going to have, minor, severe or potentially fatal? No one knows, until afterward. For my part, I will try to reduce the odds of negative encounters, rare though they may be involving kiters. Some thoughts along those lines follow below.


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Last edited by RickI; 04-07-2014 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 04-07-2014, 10:15 AM
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Discussion follows, see accident account above

Kiteboarder attacks by sharks seem to be quite rare. This may in part be due to our relatively small numbers when compared to surfers, swimmers and divers. It may also be due to the apparent indifference sharks seem to often have to kiters on plane. There are cases of sharks attacking boats, kayaks, etc. so a moving kiteboard may not proof against negative encounters obviously enough. There have been few cases of sharks attacking a kiter on plane that I have heard of. One happened in South Africa involving a mako shark during a kiting competition in 2001 and now Kurt's attack. Usually when kiters are attacked they have been in the water, just like surfers, bathers and divers.

It is important to note that shark behavior and attacks shouldn't be overly generalized. Florida may lead the world in the quantity of shark attacks but we fortunately have very few fatalities from that cause. The long coastline, abundance of water goers and shark migrations may account for a good percentage of the attacks in Florida. I understand human flesh doesn't hold much appeal for some sharks and once bitten some sharks may move on. The sheer size and violence of attack of say a white shark may be fatal all by itself. Even though white sharks occur somewhat rarely in Florida, attacks involving them here are even more rare. In places like Northern California, Hawaii, South Africa and Australia, fatal shark attacks attributable to white sharks are more frequent. Also, sharks may attack motor centers on prey to stop evasion. This may mean an attack on the thigh which if deep enough could severe the femoral artery putting the person at risk of death by blood loss in a short period of time.

Usually we hear of few problems involving kiters and sharks in Florida. Most of the cases that come to mind, happened during the Blacktip/Spinner shark migration. This includes Steve Schaffers tragic accident, first fatal shark attack on a kiter worldwide that I have heard about. I understand Steve was attacked by a bull shark which may have been following the migration. He was bitten in the thigh, cutting his femoral artery. The actual attack wasn't witnessed and so the exact circumstances remain unknown other than a single shark seems to have been responsible.

The migration heads south during the fall to mate in the waters of Broward and Miami-Dade County. For some reason they aren't that apparent during the portion of the migration, at least to people on land. Most of the sightings and encounters seem to occur during February and March when the sharks migrate back north to the Carolinas to pup offspring.

Kiters may go out during the migration and even among hundreds of sharks. The risk of attack goes up obviously during such circumstances. If it is a smaller shark you may suffer a painful bite or more substantial injury depending upon the location and severity of the bite(s). I used to kite among hundreds myself and for days but stopped after seeing a video shot by Tom Leeman from his kite in which sharks were seen to chase kiters when they transitioned or changed direction. Otherwise they seem to ignore him. The noise and splashing generated by kiteboard in transition may form a potentially unhealthy interest. If the kiter happens to fall in, a common event, the sharks could strike suddenly before moving on. It is possible Kurt's transition attracted the shark who took a bite of opportunity when his arm entered the wave, dragging a wake. If sharks are obviously feeding evidenced by jumping/spinning, there are feeding birds, jumping bait, it is near sunset or sunrise, your risk goes up. They jump and spin out of the water, sometimes several at once, to panic and disorient their prey, often mullet or other migratory fish to make predation easier. I understand these factors have been present at times during some attacks on surfers in the past. None of these factors have to be present to suffer an attack, as they can "come out of the blue" but they do increase the odds of a negative encounter.





It has been indicated that larger sharks such as bulls, tigers and hammerheads may follow the far more numerous and smaller blacktip and spinner sharks as a ready source of food. The blacktip and spinner sharks in the migration can be fairly small at around a few feet to an average of just over six feet growing to as much as ten feet in length. Bulls can be both heavier and longer averaging about eight feet in length and growing to over eleven feet. Tiger sharks are larger still averaging around ten to fourteen feet growing perhaps to in excess of eighteen feet. Hammerheads range from three feet to almost twenty feet in length. http://en.wikipedia.org/

I heard about two other attacks on kiters years back off Martin County, again during the migration. One attack was described as minor while the other involved some injury and even compelled the man to quit kiting and leave the state. He had been trying to teach himself how to kite in the midst of working bait and diving sea birds.

Many of the blacktop/spinner shark attacks are minor, bite and run type encounters. They happen with some frequency to surfers routinely riding through the migrations. Bathers have also been attacked in the past, usually suffering minor injury.

More information about shark attacks in Florida and worldwide in the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) at: https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/isaf/isaf.htm


Here is a photo from last week. I had launched at dawn south of Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach to do some kiting and photography. I knew the migration was underway of course but saw no sign of sharks, jumping bait or feeding birds around the launch area. I came across these sharks just after dawn apparently near the bottom about 3/4 mile north of my launch area on the far side of the inlet and within a couple hundred yards of shore. I didn't see them while I was kiting but noticed them in the kite images after. A few did seem to move towards me in successive images perhaps to check things out.


You can read more about the migration at:
http://fksa.org/showthread.php?t=10379



Photo: J. Langolis, Palm Beach Daily News
http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/ne...ose-bea/nWhW4/


...


By the way should you need a kite repair I would keep Kurt in mind.


http://thekitedoctor.com
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Last edited by RickI; 04-07-2014 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 04-15-2014, 03:21 PM
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A video of a small spinner/blacktip making an attack run on a foil kiteboard as it barrels past.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v...type=3&theater
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