Saturday morning around 11:30 AM HST, Kaleo Roberson fended off an attacking tiger shark while surfing with his children, their friends, and an estimated 20 others at Freight Trains in Maalea, Maui according to a report by Maui News.
Although he didn’t see the shark approaching, Roberson said the 12- 14-foot tiger shark was in “pure attack mode” when it broke the water’s surface – lunging for him with its jaws wide open. Roberson responded by punching it in the nose with his left hand and kicking it.
“Right then I realized I was fighting for my life,” Roberson told Maui News. “I had my sons with me so I took my board and I started swinging it.”
Within yards were Roberson’s 8-year-old twins Justin and Eric and six-year-old, Steve – as well as 10-year-old twins Charlie and Ethan Brumbaugh. To protect his children and their friends, Roberson began swinging his board at the shark, which left a 14-inch bit mark across the rail of 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,” Roberson told Maui News.
Ten-year-old Ethan Brumbaugh also tried to punch the shark to stave it off. “I saw this shark right next to (Roberson) and next thing I see the mouth right at me, and I tried to punch it but I missed,” Brumbaugh told Maui News. “Then a wave came, and I started paddling in and I almost fell off my board.”
While some of the surfers didn’t exit the water right after the attack, Roberson and the group of children immediately paddled to the shore to safety.
Roberson’s wife, Tiare watched in horror from the beach as the attack unfolded.
“My whole life flashed before my eyes,” she told Maui News. “It was terrifying. I’m just really glad they’re all OK.”
@Robersonbrothers recounted the experience on Instagram:
Today was one of the most emotional close calls of our lives!!! This afternoon Kaleo was surfing with the 3 boys at Maalaea with their friends Charlie & Ethan when Kaleo caught a glimpse of a 15 ft tiger shark coming towards him with his kids life on the line he instinctually fought it off with his board & took all 5 kids & photog Pataoa to safety!!! I never have felt so helpless in my life!!! Kaleo is my Hero and my life!!! I will forever hug my kids & husband longer & harder after today!!! #thankyougod
In response to the attack, officials shut down local beaches from McGregor’s Point to Kealia Beach Pond until noon on Sunday.