Monday Jul 20, 2015

“I punched it in the back” – Mick Fanning survives WSL shark attack

World Surf League athletes react after Mick Fanning fights off shark at J-Bay Open

Mick Fanning heroically escaped a shark attack at the J-Bay Open this weekend during a terrifying incident at the World Surf League in South Africa.

The three-time World Champion was waiting in the lineup at Jefferys Bay near Port Elizabeth during the live broadcast of his final against Julian Wilson when the animal knocked him off his board.

He then disappeared behind a wave as the warning alarm sounded and everyone, including Wilson and the Water Safety Team, rushed to his aid.

But thanks to his quick reactions, and the speed of the rescue team, Fanning was pulled from the waves completely unharmed.

The event was eventually cancelled but the Australian, who was defending champion at J-Bay, said he was just happy to be walking on dry land.

“I was just sitting there and I felt something grab or get struck in my leg rope and I instantly just jumped away,” said Fanning. “It just kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming.

“I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back. I’m totally fine. I’ve got nothing wrong with me.

I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back.

“Before I knew it the boat was there, the jet skis were there and we were in safely. I just can’t believe it. To walk away from that, I’m just so stoked.”

Wilson was close by and immediately started paddling towards his countryman before also being fished out by the safety team.

“I saw the whole thing pop up behind him,” said Wilson. “He was wrestling it. I saw him get knocked off his board and then a wave popped up and I thought, ‘he’s gone.’

“I felt like I couldn’t get there quick enough. I thought it was going to grab him and take him under.

“I’m so happy we’re both on the beach right now, I was so worried about Mick’s life. The results don’t mean anything to me.”

After calling off the final, WSL commissioner Kieren Perrow confirmed that both Wilson and Fanning would be awarded 8000 points each for joint second place, and split the remaining prize money.

It is the first time in the history of the world tour that a shark as attacked an athlete and Perrow also congratulated Fanning and the rescue team for their efforts.

"We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today," he said. "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 next stop on the tour is two weeks away in Tahiti, giving Fanning some time to recover before returning to the water.

But after the scariest incident in the history of professional surfing the next event will be the last thing on everyone’s minds.

“I’m halfway between crying and laughing because he got so lucky,” said Kelly Slater, who competed in the semi-finals earlier in the day.

“I’m lost for words to be honest. We almost just watched our friend get eaten by a shark and I’m just blown away that there’s no damage at all.”

Channels:, INSANE!, Surf