Mick Fanning has fought off a shark attack on live TV while in the middle of a surfing competition in South Africa.
Fanning was a finalist in the J-Bay Open when the shark attacked him, with the incident captured on live television. Fanning was waiting for his first wave of the final when a fin surfaced just behind him.
Fanning says that he had noticed the shark and tried to paddle away, but was knocked off his board.
Shark attacks Mick Fanning at J-Bay Open:
To make the spectacle even more agonizing for his mother, who was watching the events on television, a wave hid Fanning from the view of the camera as he struggled to escape. His mother said: “I was so scared. I just thought when that wave came through that he’d gone.”
Competition called off—surfers react to shark attack:
Fanning was understandably shaken after the incident. “All of a sudden, I just had this instinct that something was behind me,” Fanning said to the World Surf League (WSL). “And then all of a sudden, I felt like I started getting pulled under water. Then the shark came up, and I was on my board and it was like right there, and I saw the whole thing thrashing around.
“I was getting dragged under by my leg [rope], and then I felt like it kicked me off, but it was still there, and I was still attached to my board. I felt like it was dragging me under water, and then my leg rope broke, and I started swimming and screaming,” he added.
Commissioner on shark attack at J-Bay Open:
The WSL issued this statement: “We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today. Mick’s composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic, and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable—they are truly world class at what they do.
“The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL, and after discussions with both finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open. We appreciate the ongoing support we have in South Africa, and once again want to express our gratitude to the Water Safety Team.
“After meeting with Commissioner Kieren Perrow, Fanning and Wilson agreed to take second place each and split the prize money between them. This is the first time in surfing history that there has been an attack during an event.”
Kelly Slater, 11-time world champion, had expressed his relief on Instagram that Fanning survived the ordeal. “Glad to know this guy and even happier that he swam/walked away unscathed,” he wrote. “The only mark on him is a tiny scratch (probably from hitting the shark) on his left hand knuckle.”
“The scariest moment was when he turned around to face where the shark would be coming from after swimming 20 meters towards shore. I can’t even imagine the vulnerability he must’ve felt.”
He is a lucky man, and I’m not surprised that both surfers were happy to call the competition a tie and split the winnings.