By Nelson Groom
A photographer who survived getting his leg ripped off by a shark has captured gut-wrenching footage of a new ultra-close encounter with one of the predators.
Mike Coots was boogie boarding in waters off Hawaii aged 18 when a tiger shark grabbed him by his right leg and bit it clean off in a blood-drenched attack.
But in an unlikely twist, the 38-year-old later became a shark conservationist and still regularly dives with the beasts in international hotspots to raise awareness.
On March 7, Mike filmed a terrifyingly close-up video of a Great White’s gaping jaws at Stewart Island, off the coast of New Zealand – and while for his footage is the stuff of nightmares for most, he was thrilled to capture the moment.
Mike, who was back in the water three weeks after being mauled 20 years ago, said; “When I filmed the footage this Great White was coming right up to me – literally millimetres away.
“It was literally like hanging with dinosaurs. It’s one of the coolest things you can do on earth. You can just feel the vibe from this apex predator.
“Stewart Island is one of the only spots in the world where you can consistently dive with big whites, but it’s still quite rare to see them this close.
“Filming them actually calms me down. As a photographer I was just focusing on getting the shot and capturing the movement.”
Mike filmed the video of the great white using a GoPro he held in the water from a boat – meaning the shark was just millimetres from his hand.
And the Hawaiian, who grew up in New Zealand and has dual citizenship, admits his fascinating relationship with sharks changed forever the fateful day he was attacked.
The then-18-year-old was body boarding off Kauai island when a tiger shark latched onto his leg and started shaking it around ‘like a piece of meat’.
Mike’s survival instincts kicked in and he hit the shark in its face until it released him – a whole 18 years before Mick Fanning would later go viral for doing the same thing.
While paddling frantically back to shore, the then-teenager saw what he thought was the shark coming back to finish him off– only to realise it was his severed leg in the water.
Mike was dragged up the beach by his friends, who made a makeshift bandage and rushed him to hospital in a Ute.
He underwent emergency amputation surgery and spent a week in hospital before undergoing two more weeks of recovery while he had his stitches taken out.
But Mike returned to the same beach straight afterwards – and went on to become an outspoken campaigner for saving the very animal that bit him.
The 38-year-old said: “I was just paddling for a nice wave when this tiger shark came up like a submarine and grabbed onto me and started shaking me around like a dog with meat.
“I gave it a couple of good punches on the nose then got back on the board. My hand was bloody but I managed to start paddling back into shore. Then my right leg started spasming.
“I saw something to the side which I thought was the shark. I looked over and it was my severed leg, I was just spurting blood out of the missing limb.”
These days, Mike has shot to social media stardom for his incredible snaps of himself swimming with sharks while wearing a prosthetic leg.
As an ambassador for Pew Environment Group, he has become an outspoken campaigner on the subject – even speaking to the United Nations about the importance of shark sanctuaries.
Mike even developed a surfboard fin aimed at stopping shark culls by letting surfers pledge they do not wish for the shark to be killed in retaliation for surfers being killed or injured.
He said: “It’s been a really fun experience to use my unique situation to connect with other people who are passionate about the same thing as me.
“Sharks aren’t just man-eaters, they are invaluable to the balance and health of our oceans.”