Australian pro surfer Mick Fanning has likely thought about what he would do if he ever came face to face with a shark; after all, the 34-year-old Gold Coast surfer has been carving up the waves for decades.
But yesterday, Fanning survived an all-too-close encounter with a shark, which was broadcast on live television in South Africa.
After he was seen thrashing with the large shark in the water, Fanning was rescued by waiting safety personnel on Jet Skis in a shocking spectacle that has left spectators and global viewers shocked and amazed at Fanning's survival.
Image: World Surf League
Following his brush with a shark, Fanning told reporters, "I was about to start paddling again and I had this instinct that someone was behind me. I saw the whole thing just thrashing around... I punched it a couple of times, but I felt like it was dragging me underwater. Then all of a sudden my leg rope broke and I was swimming and screaming.
"I was swimming in and I had this thought, 'What if it comes for another go at me?' So I turned around, so I could at least see it, and before I knew it the boat was there, the Jet Skis were there. I just can't believe it... I'm happy to not even compete ever again. Seriously, to walk away from that, I'm just so stoked."
The Tweed Heads local was competing against Julian Wilson in the final of the J-Bay Open when the shark tugged at his leg.
When it became clear that Fanning was battling a shark, the world champion motioned for Wilson to paddle towards the shore.
However, his competitor quickly began paddling towards Fanning, telling reporters in an emotional interview afterwards, "[I thought], 'I've got a board, if I can get there or stab it or whatever, I've got a weapon...' I couldn't get there quick enough."
After the encounter, the water was cleared and Fanning and Wilson split the points and the prize money from the competition. The event was also cancelled.
World champion Kelly Slater told reporters he had never seen anything like it, confirming, “I was coming up the beach and I saw all the boats and skis go straight to the lineup. I knew there was only one possible reason that would ever happen in a contest and that’s if someone got attacked by a shark,” he said.
The World Surf League released a statement afterwards commending Fanning's quick action in the water:
"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."
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