At the J-Bay Open in South Africa on July 19, 2015, Australian surfing champion Mick Fanning saved himself from being a victim of a horrific attack after he punched and fought off a great white shark during one of his morning runs. The event was broadcast around the world on live television and many people saw the harrowing event. After an incredible escape, the unscathed surfer was able to tell the tale of what happened just off the eastern Cape of Africa.
The final day of the J-Bay Open had just started as Fanning hit the surf for his last heat. The 34-year-old defending champion from Tweed Heads, Australia, was competing in the waves of Jefferys Bay when one of two sharks approached him as he was paddling out into the water on his surfboard.
As he was knocked off his board, Fanning told reporters, “I just saw fins.” The sharks came straight up to him and took a bite at his surfboard. “I was just sitting there and I felt something just get stuck in my leg rope, and I was kicking trying to get it away.” Fanning the realized the thing he was kicking was a great white shark, two of them actually. The surfer then said, “I was waiting for the teeth.”
The Aussie then pulled back his right arm punched the shark. He told reporters he got, “a punch into its back,” and was able to scare it away. The shark ended up severing the cord linking the surfer to his board.
Fellow Aussie co-competitor Julian Wilson rushed to Fanning’s aid as the shark attacked him. “I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Wilson said as he tearfully recalled the incident. “I saw the thing pop up behind him….I saw him wrestling it and saw him get knocked off his board.” He heard Fanning scream for help and jumped into the perilous water to save him. “Then a little wave popped up and I couldn’t see him…I thought he’d gone under,” Wilson told interviewers.
Rescue boats and jet skis sped across the water to help the two men. Both came out of the incident shaken, but alive and uninjured. Fanning’s sponsor Ripcurl took to Twitter after the incident saying, “That was too close.”
The three-time world champion put up impressive numbers during runs earlier this week in Bay when it was not infested with sharks. Though, the area around Jefferys Bay off the coast of South Africa is known as one of the most shark-ridden places on Earth.
According to the World Surf League (WSL), Fanning and Wilson were approached by two sharks just before rescue crews got to them. Both men came out unscathed and were taken to the beach on jet skis. The WSL promptly cancelled the remainder of the South African J-Bay Open. Kieren Perrow, the WSL Commissioner, stated, “Everyone is rattled and shaken up…No heats will be held today.”
By Alex Lemieux
BBC: Surfer Mick Fanning escapes shark attack in South Africa
Surfer Mag: Mick Fanning Attacked By Shark At J-Bay Open
Photo Courtesy of Tati Melo’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of Michael Dawes’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License