Matt Sechrist is celebrating a major catch: An 8-foot, 250-pound shark off the North Florida coast on July 16.
The 19-year-old fisherman, who was born without legs, reeled in the giant fish with the help of two men who were holding his wheelchair at the time. Once the shark bit the bait, an hourlong struggle ensued until Sechrist reeled it in, took pictures and released it back into the wild, the St. Augustine Record reports.
“That’s a memory that I’ll be able to keep forever,” Sechrist said about the shark he caught on Tuesday. “That’s a special moment that I can use. Just one more thing on the resume of things that I’ve done.”
In order to catch the shark, Ed Parrish, a Florida Forest Service firefighter and co-worker of Sechrist’s father, kayaked off Vilano Beach and dropped bait. On the beach, rods were set up that made a loud click when a fish would bite it.
“We strapped his dad to it first and let him wear (the shark) down a bit,” Parrish said. “I’ve got an extra large fighting harness, which we strapped around the wheelchair.”
Sechrist put his wheelchair brakes on while Parrish and his father held it in place as he wrestled with the shark. Eventually, the shark grew tired and the men reeled him to shore, the Associated Press reports.
Even Sechrist’s father, David, had his doubts about reeling in the big catch. “I was like, ‘If you think so. You know better than I do,’” he said, explaining it was Parrish’s idea to have his son catch the shark. “He put in a lot of leg work to make this happen.”
Earlier this month, a 24-year-old man made headlines after he wrestled with a 7-foot shark off the Nantucket coast. Elliot Sudal, who had moved to the Massachusetts island from Florida, used his hands to catch a shark and bring it to shore. He tired the shark out by jumping on it and grabbing it.
“They’re really strong,” he told the Boston Herald. “They get a little adrenaline rush, once they realize something crazy is happening. Then you grab them and they start freaking out. Sometimes you gotta jump on.”
For Sechrist, his epic catch is part of a long list of adrenaline-fueled accomplishments. He has gone skydiving and waterskiing and plans on playing wheelchair basketball in college, which he starts this week.
“I don’t want people to look at me and my disability and see what I can’t do,” Sechrist told the Record. “I’d rather them see me for what I can do.”