Born and raised here on Kaua’i, Mike Coots lost his lower right leg to a tiger shark at the age of 18 while bodyboarding on the West Side of the Island on what would have been an average early morning session with his competitive team. What would seem traumatic to most, he sees as a gift. Temporarily side lined from surfing (he was back in the water the first day his doctor allowed), he found photography. A raw talent and clear knack for ocean shots (he was quickly regarded highly in a very competitive field) lead him to the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography.
It was soon after he returned to Hawai’i he was contacted by another shark survivor and amputee about the importance of shark conservation and if we would be open to learning more...and he did. Now, he is a staunch advocate for shark preservation, a student of their world wide conservation, he uses his beautiful photography to share a softer side of this prehistoric creature in his many adventures in Hawai’i and beyond. His deep love and respect for this animal and the importance of sharks in maintaining a balance in the oceans ecosystem drives his conservation work.. His story has been shared by CBS, TIme Magazine, PBS, National Geographic to name just a few, yet Mike continues to be one of the most humble, ever learning, and eternally grateful people in our community.
An accomplished surfer, he recently began competition as a Challenged Athlete in both surfing and triathlons, which has enhanced the opportunity to mentor and inspire other amputees and adaptive athletes both in and out of the water. “It was worth losing a limb just for that alone. And to help other amputees and kids that are dealing with limb loss, I feel really blessed. If you want to do something, don’t worry about what people tell you. If you think you can do it, just do it.”