Shark attack survivor competes in surfing competition

Posted at 5:33 AM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 14:23:48-05

Surfers from all over the world finished a competition at La Jolla Shores. Many of them lost legs or arms or have overcome physical challenges.

"Once you're in the water, having fun, you want to build on that," said surfer Mike Coots. Nothing gets in between Coots and the ocean. "That's all I had done my entire life."

Coots is at La Jolla Shores competing on the final day of the 2016 Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship. Nearly 80 other surfers from around the world with physical challenges are competing against him. Coots was attacked by a shark in 1997 and now wears a prosthetic leg.

"Basically went to go paddle for my first wave of the day, a large tiger shark came up like a submarine, grabbed onto me, ragdolled me back and forth," Coots said. "I punched it a couple of times and it let go."

Coots spent a month out of the water recovering. He says being out of the water was the hardest time of his life.

"As soon as those stitches and staples healed up, and the risk of infection was gone, I was right back out there," said Coots.

10News reporter Matt Mendes asked, "Were you afraid at all to go back in the water?" Coots replied, "No, not at all. Since then, I have spent a lot of time with sharks, advocate for the protection of sharks."

"The more I learn about sharks, what they do, why they do it... it was such a freak thing,"

The attack fueled his passion and made him appreciate the ocean even more.