Teen shark attack survivor gets back in water with great whites


Shark attack survivor Keane Weber-Hayes (right) comes face-to-face with a great white shark one year after his attack off the coast of Encinitas.

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ENCINITAS, Calif. -- Keane Webre-Hayes, the teen who survived a great white shark attack at Beacon's Beach in Encinitas just a year ago, has become an ocean conservationist and "shark ally."

This year, he took the trip of a lifetime to see great white sharks in person for the first time since his attack.

Hayes traveled about 200 miles off the coast of Mexico to Guadalupe Island -- one of just a few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with a great white shark through a dive cage. At 14 years old, Hayes felt the trip was an important step in his new mission to change people's perspectives on sharks.

"You see them on TV and they're just attacking everything they see, you know?" Webre-Hayes said after his encounter. "It was just so life-changing to see them cruising ... They're very methodical, conservative with their energy."

The teen was accompanied on the trip by Chad Hammel, who was kayaking off Beacon's Beach at the time Webre-Hayes was attacked.

He stepped in and helped save the teen's life, pulling him aboard, paddling frantically to shore and getting lifeguards after noticing the boy thrashing in the water and screaming for help. Now one year later, they are friends bonded together by fate.

"I have a bunch of friends that, if they had the same thing happen to them, they would never step foot in the water again," Hammel said. "Seeing someone who's a lot younger, and just so brave, (want to) get back on the horse is an experience I'll never forget."

Filmmaker and diver Nathan Minatta also made the trip to Guadalupe Island. He is making a documentary about the 14-year-old's journey.

"He was a child and now he's like a full-grown man; he's more mature than half my friends," Minatta told FOX 5. "His first time diving was the time he got attacked and now he's progressed so much to the point where I can't even give him tips."

Webre-Hayes says he will continue advocating for a better understanding of sharks and their role in the ocean ecosystem. He has been asked to speak for surfer Bethany Hamilton's event "Anchored in Love" at the end of October and looks forward to the release of his documentary in the near future.

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