It was a clear, sunny Sunday morning, and Jeff Horton was surfing off of Kauai's North Shore at Pila'a Beach, surrounded by about 10 other surfers. Some of the surfers spotted a fin and a tail in the water, but no one got out.
About 20 minutes later, at 11 a.m., Horton was sitting upright with his feet dangling on either side of the board when he saw something dark moving around below him. Suddenly, it moved toward his left leg.
The tiger shark bit into the board just as he pulled his leg back.
"I was pretty scared," Horton told the Garden Island.
The impact flipped him off the board and onto the approximately 12-foot-long shark. Horton said he then grabbed on to the fin of the shark and was effectively riding it.
"I started punching as hard as I could," said Horton, a former boxer.
He estimated he got about eight punches in, but it was the final blow to the shark's eye that sent the shark away.
"I thought it was do or die. I thought I was going to die for real," Horton told KHON-TV.
After the final blow, the shark released the board from its jaws and flung Horton off its back and into the air. Horton got back on his board, stunned, and with the help of another surfer caught a wave and paddled for shore. The shark followed, briefly, but then retreated for good.
Horton survived with just a few scratches, but his 7-foot board was left with an imprint of the shark's jaws.
On land, Horton received hugs from the other surfers and beach spectators. A visitor even gave Horton $50 and told him to buy himself a drink.
Horton moved to Hawaii from the east coast about two years ago and said he has been surfing almost every day since moving to the islands. On Monday, he was already back in the water catching waves at another beach on Kauai.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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