A 12-year-old surfer has been landed in hospital after being badly bitten by a shark during a surfing session in an attack that may take up to eight months to recover from.
Jai and a few friends had travelled to New Smyrna Beach in Florida to hit the waves with surfing coach Charley Hajek, known as 'Gnarly Charley'.
Hajek said that he and Jai were walking out from a sandbar when Jai said that he thought he'd been bitten.
“I go, ‘No you didn’t,’", recounted Hajek, “so he kind of lifts his leg up, and sure enough, the whole back of his leg is missing.”
Jai suffered severe damage to his calf muscle, nerves, and arteries from the attack, and has already had three rounds of surgery to repair the damage.
Despite the severity of the attack, Jai appears to be in good spirits, saying he thinks he will have a “pretty cool scar” from the encounter.
The attack also damaged nerve endings in Jai's leg, making it difficult for him to move his foot.
Jai said that although he knew he had been bitten, he didn't feel a lot of pain from the bite, describing it as “more of a weird feeling.”
He added: “I guess I got lucky, you could say, because when I got bit, it bit my nerves. My leg is completely numb.”
Hajek was able to get Jai out of the water, and used the leash from his surfboard to staunch the bleeding until an ambulance arrived.
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Jai's mum Jamerica Villamil was at work when she heard about the bite, saying she was applying colour to a client's hair when a friend called with the news.
“He was already in the surgery room, so I didn’t get to see him for like two hours,” she said.
But three surgeries later and although Jai is frustrated at having to forgo his active life of surfing and football while he recovers, he is optimistic about the future and hopes to return to the waves as soon as he can.
He said: “I like to be outside more than anything, so it kind of sucks that I’ve got to sit in bed for the next four or five months or so.”
“I can’t be scared of it,” he added. “I probably got mistaken for a crowd of fish or something.”
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Jai has also been very excited to receive encouragement from surfing heroes CJ Hobgood and Jamie O’Brien, saying: "“It makes it so much better when I saw their texts on Instagram and stuff,” he said. “They’re my idols.”
Hajek explained that given the severity of Jai's injuries and the depth of the water they had been in, it is likely that a bull shark was responsible for the attack.
Bull sharks are one of three species of sharks considered most likely to bite humans, along with tiger sharks and great whites.
A GoFundMe page was also set up to help Jai.
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