Shark surfer hand : woman escapes shark after friend punched it five times in the nose, Big Island beach closed

Updated: November 4, 2014
Surfer escapes shark after friend punched it five times in the nose, Big Island beach closed

A 34-year-old Kailua-Kona woman who was gripped in a struggle with a tiger shark off North Kohala feels fortunate to have escaped without deadly injury.

That McKenzie Clark made it out of the encounter with a 12- to 15-foot tiger shark with damage only to fingers and a hand is likely because of a companion wrestling the shark and beating it with his fist.

All that after surviving a vicious shark attack off the waters of northern Hawaii. Clark showed off the brutal bite marks to her hands and board.

“I don’t think that this minor of an injury happens very often with this situation,” she said.

Clark paddled out to surf the warm waters off the Big Island on Friday, just like she has many times before. Always more fascinated than fearful of what lurks beneath the surface.

“I love sharks,” she said. “I think they’re beautiful.”

A bump in the water put that appreciation to the test. Clark thought she hit a rock, until she saw the 12-foot surfaced.

“At that point his head was on my board and his jaws were chomping down,” she said.

Friend Brian Wargo, also surfing nearby, heard screaming and described the terrifying scene.

“I looked over and I saw her being lifted out of the water,” he said. “I saw the dorsal of the shark and then I saw his tail kicking very hard with her in the air.”

Fearing the shark would eat her, he grabbed the dorsal fin and started punching.

“About the fifth time I hit it, I felt the shark shudder,” Wargo said. “And at that time he turned away from McKenzie and started to head out to sea.”

After paddling to shore and racing to the hospital, Clark and her hero were all smiles. Her wounded and wrapped hand held high. But, still aware of how close they came to the jaws of death.

“Right now I just feel really, really blessed and thankful that everyone’s okay,” she said.