Maui man honored for fighting off shark, protecting group

  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 photo police Chief Tivoli Faaumu pins the Civilian Medal of Valor on Triston Kahookele-Santos while his mother, Marjorie Kahookele-Pea looks on, during a ceremony at the Wailuku Police Station in Hawaii. Kahookele-Santos, an Andaz Beach Crew employee, used his paddle to fight off a tiger shark that bit a guest's board Feb. 5. (Lila Fujimoto/The News via AP)

  • This Feb. 5, 2020 photo provided by the Maui Fire Department shows a shark bite on a paddle-board off Wailea, Hawaii. On Tuesday, Feb. 18 paddleboarder Triston Kahookele-Santos earned the Civilian Medal of Valor, the Maui Police department's highest civilian honor, for using his board to fight off an attack by a tiger shark to protect members of a tour group he was leading. (Maui Fire Department via AP)

WAILUKU — A paddleboarder earned the Maui Police department’s highest civilian honor for fighting off an attack by a tiger shark to protect members of a tour group he was leading.

The department awarded its Civilian Medal of Valor to Triston Kahookele-Santos Tuesday, The Maui News reported.


The 20-year-old employee of the Andaz Beach Crew, part of the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, was leading five stand-up paddle-boarders about a quarter-mile offshore around 9:30 a.m. Feb. 5.

The group was watching whales and following fish and a manta ray, Maui police spokeswoman Lt. Audra Sellers said.

A 10-foot tiger shark appeared and launched an attack at a Washington man in the group, “violently thrashing his board,” Sellers said.

Kahookele-Santos used the blade of his paddle to strike the shark, which let go of the board and turned on Kahookele-Santos. The others paddled safely to shore as he fought off the shark with the paddle while it circled him three times.

No injuries were reported as a result of the attack.

“On the inside, it was a little worrisome,” he said. “But on the outside, I had to stay calm for everyone.”

While Kahookele-Santos focused on the shark, he told the others to paddle in slowly and try to keep splashing to a minimum.

“It came to try (to) bite my board. I’d hit it off. It would come again,” he said. “Then it finally disengaged.”

His mother, Maui Police Officer Marjorie Kahookele-Pea, said she was proud of his actions.

“He followed protocol, he followed exactly what he was supposed to do,” she said.


Kahookele-Santos thanked those who taught him about the ocean.

“Without them, I wouldn’t be able to be calm out there,” he said. “It’s being taught to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email