Three-time surfing world champion Mick Fanning fought off a shark attack at the J-Bay Open in South Africa on Sunday.
The surfing competition in South Africa was canceled after the Australian professional surfer escaped from the shark attack in the opening minutes of the final heat.
Mick Fanning was a finalist in the J-Bay Open when the shark attacked, and the incident can be seen in the video below. As Fanning waited to ride the first wave in the final heat, a shark’s fin emerged creeping just right behind him. Mick noticed the shark at the very last moment and tried to paddle away but was soon dragged off his board by the shark.
— #JBayOpen (@wsl) July 19, 2015
A wave obscures what happens next, but when Fanning comes back into view he is still swimming away, this time without his board. Safety boats from the Water Safety Team quickly arrived and pulled Fanning from the water. That was after Fanning had landed a punch to the shark’s back during the struggle. Mick Fanning escaped with a severed leash on his surfboard. He told World Surf League TV that he “punched” the shark in the back to scare it away.
I had this feeling that something was behind (me), and all of a sudden I felt like I started getting pulled underwater. And then the thing came up and I was on my board and it was right there. I had this thought, ‘What if it comes around for another go at me?'” he said. “Before I knew it, the boat was there. … I can’t believe it, I was tripping out. I’m totally tripping out.
The incident rattled the surfing community, which breathed a collective sigh of relief over news of the rescues. In an interview after the incident, close friend and fellow competition Julian Wilson struggled for composure as he recalled watching Manning get knocked off his board.
Interview with Julian Wilson on being in the water with Fanning during the shark attack, heavy situation to be in. pic.twitter.com/o7xAC6fTOc
— Neal Mann (@fieldproducer) July 19, 2015
WSL (World Surf League) Chief Executive Paul Speaker expressed relief that the competitors escaped unscathed. He commended everyone involved in the rescue, including Wilson, who was “sprint paddling to get to his friend.”
We kind of coexist with sharks in the water. We go to places that certainly have the greatest waves in the world. But it comes with some danger,
It’s a very unpredictable sport. i think that’s what draws many of the athletes to it.
The World Surf League commissioner, Kieren Perrow, said he believed it was the first time a surfer had been attacked during competition, and said the incident had left its mark. “It’s shaken everyone,” Perrow said. “We’re just happy to see Fanning safe and alive. It’s not something you believe would ever happen, and to see it unfold on live television is incredibly scary for everyone.”
The surfing competition has temporarily been placed on hold.
Full Video below: