Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo victim of shark bite heals and forgives


Largo resident Erik Norrie's trip to the Bahamas in October wasn't exactly a vacation. It was a mission.

Norrie, 41, looked out at the waters of Abaco Islands, where a shark had taken a bite out of his left calf in August. Now he planned to catch that same shark and release it as a symbol of his forgiveness.

Norrie, who has been fishing his entire life, wasn't afraid — he had gone back on the water as soon as doctors would let him.

But when he returned to the place where he was attacked, the memories came rushing back.

"It was pretty emotional," Norrie said. "As I went up on the island and knelt down, I started praying. I really just felt like at the time, God was saying to me, 'You don't have to catch that shark.' "

The veteran spearfisher took that moment as a sign. He trudged back through the water to the boat to tell a group of his buddies — his friend, father-in-law and pastor — that the adventure they had planned wasn't going to happen.

Norrie first recounted the attack to the Tampa Bay Times while hospitalized in August. He was in the water holding a grouper to take home for dinner when he felt intense pressure on his leg. He watched the water turn red. He saw part of his leg in the shark's jaws.

He fashioned a tourniquet out of a rubber band from his spear gun while his family called for help.

Two weeks ago in an interview at his workplace, Norrie kicked up his leg to show off his mostly healed wound. Smiling, he reached for a set of authentic shark jaws, a gift from a friend. Norrie ran his fingers over the teeth. When he overlaid the jaws on top of his calf, the mouth lined up almost perfectly with the rough, dark circle of scar tissue and bite marks on his leg.

Norrie didn't get a good enough look at the shark that attacked him to identify it. An expert who examined the wound concluded it was likely a sandbar shark, common in warm, shallow waters around the world.

Reminders of Norrie's encounter with the shark are everywhere, even at his job, where he's the CEO of Sea Hawk Paints, a boat paint manufacturer. In his office, he displays the shark jaws. He pointed to a blue tie-dyed T-shirt with bright cartoon sharks stretched over his desk chair. A plastic shark rested on his window sill. Norrie laughed at the punch line of a cheesy joke about a half-eaten Australian shark attack victim, the only shark joke he knows. Occasionally, someone calls him "shark bite man," in jest.

It's not all fun, to be sure. Routine activities like walking required serious effort and adjustments after Norrie's skin grafts and hospital stay. The first time he tried to take a step, he couldn't. He relearned the motion with a different gait. But he doesn't like to dwell on the challenges he has faced in recent months. Instead, Norrie has leaned on his family, his friends and his faith.

Norrie is writing a book. He said he hopes to relate his attack to themes of conquering adversity through devotion to Christianity. "We all have sharks in our lives that we need to forgive," he said.

Julie Kliegman can be reached at or (727) 445-4155.

Largo victim of shark bite heals and forgives 12/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 1:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PolitiFact Florida: Claim that 5.7 million noncitizens voted is wrong

    State Roundup

    President Donald Trump's unfounded allegations that millions voted illegally in 2016 is back in the news, with his supporters pointing to a new analysis that claims millions of undocumented immigrants voted in 2008.

    Instances of noncitizens voting have been reported, but evidence points to a small number among millions of votes cast.  
  2. For Fourth of July, an American feast inspired by founding father Alexander Hamilton


    Are there a million things you haven't done? Is one of them throwing a patriotic party inspired by one of the founding fathers?

    Caribbean Pork With Potato Salad makes for the perfect Fourth of July meal.
  3. 'Baby Driver' literally turns heist movie genre on its ear, set to slick soundtrack


    Buckle up for Baby Driver, a movie so full throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen. Style is the substance of Edgar Wright's inventive heist flick, a fresh, masterful synching of music and getaway mayhem, as if La La Land's traffic jam was moving, armed and dangerous.

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for heist arranger Doc (Kevin Spacey). Plagued by tinnitus, Baby tunes out his distracting “hum in the drum” by listening to music while he drives.
Sony Pictures
  4. Former mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor
  5. Life after HB7069 to be discussed at Pinellas school district workshop


    The Pinellas County school district is still trying to navigate life after the controversial passage of HB7069.