Cultures, Hawaii

A Shark Encounter

The little island of Oahu I live on is surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of ocean. Visiting the beach is one of our favorite activities. Boating, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and boogie boarding keep us cool and happy.

I love the ocean, but once in a while I worry about what may be lurking beneath the tranquil turquoise expanse.

Speilberg did such a good job on his movie Jaws , that I still remember it every time I go into the ocean.

There is a very inspirational story about a young surfer girl from the island of Kauai. A movie is being produced on the islands of Oahu and Kauai based on the autobiography of Bethany Hamilton. She has competed and won professional championships for six years after having lost her arm to a shark when she was thirteen years old.

Bethany has the heart and soul of a champion. Born in Hawaii, at age eight she entered her first surfing competition. She went on to win some championship meets and won sponsorships.

She had dreams of becoming a pro surfer, but they were rudely interrupted by a fourteen foot tiger shark. The shark bit it off her left arm close to the shoulder while she was surfing, and swam away with it. She managed to get herself to shore, and eventually lost nearly half of her blood, barely surviving.

Bethany never lost her dream, and only one month after the disaster she bravely went back into the water. She learned to paddle without her left arm, and to keep her balance on the board.

Her surf sponsor never gave up on her eighter. Rip Curl stood behind her as she went on to wind the NSSA National Surf Championships only two summers later.

By the end of 2009, she was ranked with the top 12 Junior Pro surfers in the world.

She is an inspiration to people all over the world. In the tribute movie, Anna Sophia Robb and Carrie Underwood will star in the movie called Soul Surfer which will display the real courage Bethany Hamilton has shown.

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If you would like to have a shark encounter of your own, there are actually tours in Hawaii that cater to you.

It has been kind of a controversial issue here and other places, but so far, the tours continue.

I live only a few miles from the location on the North Shore of Oahu. The tour actually takes you into the open ocean, over three miles off shore, where you can observe Galapagos and Sandbar sharks in their natural environment from the safety of a cage.

Humans and sharks are safely separated from each other by a floating cage. Guests enter the cage from above and stay on the surface using a mask and snorkel. No scuba experience is required. A large window made of polyglass lets you look into the ocean and watch as sharks glide through the deep blue. How would you like to be face to face with one of these sea creatures? I am not sure I could just stare at them.

You are educated by specialists about shark behavior and biology, conservation issues and about the significance of sharks in mythology and in the Hawaiian culture. Hawaiians see sharks as a revered part of their history and belief system. They are respected for their role in the natural balance of the island’s ecosystems.

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