Wound from spinner shark ends in heart surgery for Lasser
by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Jason Lasser may have the ultimate fish story.
Kitesurfing Sunday off the coast of Florida, the Aspenite hit the top of a big wave that happened to have another inhabitant.
Lasser said Tuesday he believes his right foot struck a spinner shark in the mouth, opening a gash that severed tendons and ligaments.
“It felt like I hit a concrete pier,” he said. “I hit him, lifted my foot out of the water and thought, ‘Uh-oh.’”
Blood had not yet begun to flow out of the still-white wound when Lasser decided to get to the beach as soon as possible.
“I went in so fast my shorts came flying off,” he said. “I was mostly worried about my winky hanging out and something biting that.”
A surfer nearby helped him land his kiteboard, and his father took him to the emergency room — first, though, he took a group photo with his friends, the bloody foot featured prominently — at JFK Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where the story gets more interesting.
Before foot surgery that would leave him with 26 stitches, Lasser was given an electrocardiogram test.
The exam showed he had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition that can lead to episodes of rapid heart rate. Lasser said he had periodically experienced a rapid heartbeat since childhood but had never been diagnosed with the syndrome.
And so on Tuesday, two days after the shark encounter, Lasser underwent heart surgery to alleviate the syndrome.
Lasser spoke about the incident before heading into the operating room, where he was worked on by a surgeon named, of course, Robert Fishel.
Photo courtesy Jason Lasser
Jason Lasser of Aspen says hitting a shark in the mouth with his foot Sunday while kiteboarding off the Florida coast felt like “hitting a concrete pier.”
On Sunday, he and a handful of buddies drove to a spot on the Florida coast, left a vehicle there, and then drove up the coast to another site that would allow them 20 miles of kitesurfing.
The one-time Aspen City Council candidate and Historic Preservation Commission board member took up the sport, a combination of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing and paragliding, in 2008.
After the group took off from the Singer Island area, Lasser said he looked down at one point to see 20 or so sharks below him. The Palm Beach inlet he was riding has a lot of fish coming in and out, making it prime hunting ground for large predators, he said.
“I don’t worry about them at all,” Lasser said of sharks. “They don’t bug you.”
Crossing the inlet near Lake Worth around 2 p.m., he eagerly touched down on a choice wave. Lasser believes his kiteboard went underneath the shark and that his foot scrapped its teeth as he went by.
“It wasn’t a bite wound per se,” he said, as there weren’t marks from the shark’s upper and lower jaws. “I hit him right in the head and teeth” at around 20 mph.
He said he never felt any pain, but with the earlier sighting of the plethora of sharks, “I didn’t want to be bleeding in the water.”
Lasser feels no animosity toward the animal: “He was just doing his thing, and I was doing mine,” he said. “It was just an unfortunate collision.”
Or maybe not so unfortunate.
Lasser called later Tuesday to say the heart surgery was a complete success. Tears of joy streamed down his face after Dr. Fishel told him he would now have a normal heart rate.
And all because he kicked a shark in the face.
“I’m just so thankful,” Lasser said. “That shark hooked me up.”