Brian Wargo doesn't remember consciously thinking about what he should do when he saw his friend being attacked by a shark—but he obviously took the right course of action, because he likely saved her life. Wargo and McKenzie Clark were surfing off North Kohala on Hawaii's Big Island on Friday when Clark bumped into something in the water, ABC News reports. That something was a shark. "At that point, his head was on my board and his jaws were chomping down," she says. From his vantage point, Wargo saw what appeared to be a 12-foot-long shark tossing Clark in the air and biting her hand and immediately started swimming their way as fast as he could. "I'm a fisherman and I've dealt with big animals," he tells West Hawaii Today. "Its intent was to eat my friend right in front of me and I wasn't going to let that happen.”
Wargo caught up and grabbed ahold of the shark, "hitting it as hard as I could between the gills and the dorsal fin," he says. "It felt like I was going to break my hand. About the sixth hit, I felt the shark shudder and turn away from her." The pair hightailed it back to the beach, then had what Wargo tells ABC was a "tense" 25-mile drive to the hospital, Clark's mangled hand wrapped in a wetsuit and towel. She received 20 stitches to her hand; her ring finger, which had been scraped down to the bone, will need a skin graft. Still, she's grateful she escaped relatively unscathed thanks to her friend. "To get attacked by a shark this size and only get a couple of [fingers] bitten, I feel really lucky," she says. (Two Massachusetts kayakers got attacked by a shark over the summer).