Each month we will be highlighting a Positive Vibe Warrior, whose strong spirit, or valuable actions in their community have inspired others to overcome adversity in their own unique way… This month, we are featuring Mike Coots, and this is his incredible journey! Enjoy.
"I am a surfer, photographer, and shark attack survivor from the island of Kaua'i. I am passionate about marine conservation, particularly whats going on with shark finning and the rapid decline of shark stocks worldwide. I also feel a calling to help others overcome adversity, and enjoy being an outreach to amputees and the adaptive/disabled community.
I lost my leg to a Tiger Shark bodyboarding off the west side of Kauai. I was 18 and would of never thought I would be as physically active as I am now. Prosthetics are not something you think about day to day if you are not an amputee or have a close friend or family member is. They are an incredible piece of modern technology, and literally equates to liberating freedom. An amputee would choose having a great fitting prosthetic over any new truck/SUV, plane, or boat any day! It's phenominal how a tangible piece of material can make your life so fulfilling. Carbon fiber and titanium make my world go 'round. You can be on top of the world, and either have your prosthetic leg break, or lose it in the surf, and life instantly comes to a grinding halt in micro seconds. Its crazy! Your brain adapts very fast to using one, and there really is not anything in life you can't do as an amputee that an able bodied person can. I surf, snowboard, run, hike, scuba dive, jumprope, dirt bike. There really are no limits!
After the shark attack, I was out of the water for a bit, and found photography as a way to pass the time and stoke my surfing friends out. I have been fortunate to make it a career, and its been an incredible ride. I really enjoyed shooting the Kauai crew, like Andy Irons, along with his brother Bruce, Kamalei Alexander and Dustin Barca. Photographing the girls too has been a blast, I love working with Malia, Alana, and Bethany. I grew up bodyboarding, lost my leg doing so, and kept bodyboarding after. It's only the last few years I have really gotten into stand up surfing. It's a trip, as I am learning as an amputee. I have not felt what its like to have my foot feel the deck pad, or what your toes play into your turns. It's really new, and a bit of uncharted territory, so it feels really exciting.
Shark conservation came after I was approached about the issue, and watched a few documentaries. It's insane the amount of sharks needlessly killed, between 70-150 million a year. A completely unsustainable rate considering extinction is forever. As an apex predator, they play a invaluable role in our marine ecosystem. They are at the top of the food chain, and you remove that, and everything else below it crumbles. Take away the roof of a house, and soon the entire home will not be livable. We need our oceans to be living and functioning, or our lives, regardless of on land or water, will become greatly affected over time. I have spoken with politicians to help push for strict marine legislation and right now it is working. Hawaii became the first state to ban shark finning. I have spoken to the US Congress, urging them to create a federal shark finning law which (I work with other shark attack survivors) was passed, and signed into law. And have also had the opportunity to speak to the UN in NYC about worldwide initiatives, creating large swaths of oceans in which sharks will be protected from over fishing and finning. Sharks predate the dinosaurs, and have survivied mass extinctions. Obviously, they are around today for a very important reason and I hope to dispel the myth that they are vicious killers who need to be removed from our seas!"
- Mike Coots