SEBASTIAN, Florida — A Rockledge man continues to recover today after a wave struck his kayak earlier this week and threw him into the water near the Sebastian Inlet jetties in south Brevard County, Florida.
24-year-old Stamatis Stomouli told a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer that he was fishing for sharks Wednesday afternoon and had just reeled one in when a wave hit and knocked him out of the kayak. He suffered no injuries from the shark.
Some good Samaritans had pulled Stomouli out of the rough water and onto the rocks just as FWC Officer Dustin Lightsey arrived at the scene. It was a few minutes after 4 p.m. Lightsey checked Stomouli’s vital signs, which appeared stable, but the victim was covered with cuts from being slammed into the rocks by waves.
Shortly after Lightsey got to Stomouli, Brevard County Fire Rescue arrived, and Lightsey and the good Samaritans placed the victim on a backboard to hoist him to the top of the jetty by rope and ladder. Brevard County Fire Rescue took Stomouli to Homes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida.
Stomouli told Lightsey he had been shark fishing near the tip of the jetty when he hooked a 6′ to 7′ blacktip shark. Still in his kayak, he fought the shark for approximately 40 minutes as it took him out into the ocean and back in toward shore on the north side of the jetty.
Fighting the shark in 2 to 4 foot waves, Stomouli finally got it close to his kayak and gaffed it. When he leaned forward to readjust the gaff, a wave knocked him out of the kayak and the shark ended up on top of him. He was wearing his auto inflatable life jacket, which had fully inflated. Stomouli scrambled away from the shark in the shallow water and ended up standing up on sand between jetty rocks. The shark swam away.
The good Samaritans threw a hoop net to Stomouli and dragged him closer. However, he was not out of danger. The rough water slammed him into the rocks and he was getting beaten up badly, so he let go of the net to try to get away from the rocks.
Meanwhile, another person threw him two of the orange buoy/floats from the jetty and he was able to get up onto the jetty rocks.
“If he had not been wearing a PFD (personal floatation device), I do not think he would have made it,” said Officer Lightsey. “Mr. Stomouli said it saved his life; he thought he was going to die.”
According to NOAA, the number one species for biting along the beaches on the U.S. East Coast is the blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus). The shark has black tips on its pectoral fins and grows to no more than about six feet.
PHOTO: NOAA file photo of a black tip shark.