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California shark attack survivor plans to spend 301 days surfing

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Posted at 6:01 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 21:01:47-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- September will mark three years since a great white shark attacked Keane Hayes at Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas, California.

He was 13, almost 14, at the time of the attack which happened while he was lobster diving for the first time at that beach.

“The lifeguard who came he was like, ‘yeah, I can see your lungs through your back,'” Hayes recalled.

The resilient 16-year-old now gets back in the water like nothing ever happened. He’s made it a goal to surf or just be in the ocean for 301 days this year.

“I think we’re on day 170. It’s also just a personal goal just to surf a ton and be in the water, fishing, or doing whatever,” he said. “Honestly, it just kind of feels natural, you know, like, I’m not pushing it, I’m not scared.”

The pictures of the attack were too graphic to share publicly. Hayes was airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital, lost a lot of blood, went through numerous surgeries, and received about 1,000 stitches.

“That’s his spine,” said his mother, Ellie Hayes, while showing KGTV a picture of his injuries after the attack. “All the white in there is his spine and shoulder.”

A flood of emotions overcomes his mother as she’s back at the spot overlooking where it all happened.

“I haven’t been down to that beach yet. It’s hard, you know? I almost lost my child here,” she said.

For Keane Hayes, the last couple of years have been filled with life-changing new experiences. One of his favorites has been helping others overcome their fears.

“Going with Bethany Hamilton and pushing girls without arms, like amputees, like that’s.... it’s, I can’t even describe it, it’s just so much fun and feels good to help them,” he said.

While the teenager has gone through challenges some can’t even imagine, he remains positive, grateful for each day he’s here, and especially to those who helped make it possible.

“The doctors, the physical therapists, you know, all of them, they put in a lot of work to get me even to just walk down and carry the board with my arm, so I’m just really thankful.”

For the third anniversary of the shark attack in September, Keane Hayes plans to surf with the people that saved him.

"Thank you to everybody who helped me," he said. "Even though it may have been a small little part that you played, it still made me who I am and where I am."

This story originally reported by Mimi Elkalla on 10News.com.