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The Amazing Story Of One Shark Attack Survivor’s Return To The Water

When Mike Coots was 18, he lost his leg during a shark attack, but survived by punching the animal in the face. One month later, he was back in the ocean surfing.

Posted on January 24, 2014, at 2:07 p.m. ET

Mike Coots, 33, is an amazing surf photographer and a shark activist, who shreds like no other.

Mike Coots

In the deep waters off Kauai, when Coots was 18, a shark took him by surprise when it bit his leg. In an attempt to save his life, he punched the shark twice in the face before it swam away.

Mike Coots

He lost his leg in the battle, but never wavered in his love for the ocean and his reverence for all its creatures.

Mikes Coots

Amazingly, Coots was back in the water only a month after the attack. "Being out of the water while the wounds healed was the hardest part of the attack," he told BuzzFeed.

Mike Coots

For Coots, getting back in the water and back on a board meant getting used to his new prosthetic leg.

Coots explained the leg has a special socket designed to keep the surf leash up high on his leg to lessen the amount of pull from the leash.
Mike Coots

Coots explained the leg has a special socket designed to keep the surf leash up high on his leg to lessen the amount of pull from the leash.

The only problem, Coots said, is that "the ocean breaks it down fast... But I am fortunate to live in a time where the technology is there and to have a leg that I can walk and surf on."

Mike Coots

Coots said that the real risk when he surfs is losing his prosthetic leg to the power of the ocean.

With this photo he writes: "Back when I was trying to turn pro as a bodysurfer. Can't believe my prosthetic leg didn't get ripped off. #stoked"

He told BuzzFeed: "I was shooting myself surfing with the GoPro a few months back, took a bad wipeout and the leg got ripped off and lost it in the ocean. So bummed!"

Coots said this is especially challenging because of insurance issues: "They have been historically known to not want to approve prosthetics or repairs; they don't see it as a necessity. It's very expensive and can be frustrating at times."

Coots has become a professional photographer since his attack, regularly posting amazing photos on his Instagram of himself riding waves...

He also works as a shark activist with Pew Environment Group to fight global shark finning.

And he hopes to stop shark culling, which is being practiced currently in Western Australia and is being debated on in Maui, where there have been several unfortunate shark attacks in the past year.

On Instagram, Coots shares his thoughts on protecting the ocean: "We need to take better care of our oceans. Here is a crapload of net and rope this morning. Must of been a few hundered [sic] pounds."

Coots has also shared on Instagram photos of one of his best friends, and arguably one of the most famous surfers of all time, Bethany Hamilton. Both from Kauai, they have been friends since they were young.

"It was a pleasure watching her as a your girl ripping up these little beach break waves with style," Coots said.

"Her brother called me minutes after her attack in panic, and as I hung up the phone with him I could hear the ambulance drive by my house, knowing she was in there struggling to hang onto life," Coots said to BuzzFeed.

"I spent a bit of the time at the hospital with the family, and was the only one in the room when she came to post-surgery."

"We have a special bond for life. I love shooting and surfing with her every chance we get. I also am a board member of a foundation she started called Friends of Bethany. We offer support and hope to young amputees."

Check out more of Mike Coots' amazing photos on his Instagram and his website.