A great white shark bit into Jonathan Kathrein's leg and dragged him underwater while he was bodyboarding in 1998 along the Northern California coast. When he grabbed the shark's gills, the animal let go, and Kathrein swam for shore. The major muscles in his leg were severed, requiring more than 600 stitches. After years of physical therapy, Kathrein made a full recovery.
The experience played a pivotal role in his career as co-founder of Future Leaders for Peace, a nonprofit organization that has taught thousands of young people about life skills, leadership, and how to reach goals. Kathrein uses his recovery as a motivational tale and analogy for dealing with the complex world around us. He is the author of three books, including, with Margaret Kathrein, Surviving the Shark: How a Brutal Great White Attack Turned a Surfer Into a Dedicated Defender of Sharks (2012).
Today, Kathrein is a political consultant in Northern California with a focus on clean energy, coastal issues, and community environmental projects. As an advocate for sharks, he believes they are an important part of our ecosystem, not the malicious savages they are sometimes portrayed as in movies. Kathrein, a father of two, summarizes his experience through an exchange he had with his two-year-old daughter. “Daddy, why'd the shark bite you?” she asked, giving him a confused look. His response: “It was an accident. We all make mistakes.”