Friday 23 February 2018

Champion surfer fights back as shark attacks during televised competition

Mick Fanning with the shark fin behind him
Mick Fanning with the shark fin behind him

Lynsey Chutel

A world champion surfer had to punch a shark to escape during the televised finals of a surfing competition in South Africa.

Three-time world champion Irish-Australian surfer Mick Fanning was struck by the shark from behind and knocked in to the water as he sat on his board waiting his turn during the J-Bay Open in Jeffrey's Bay.

TV images show him scanning the water before two fins appear and with a splash he disappears under the surface. He is next seen furiously trying to swim to safety before a rescuer pulls him out of the water.

"A big sigh of relief seeing Fanning in one piece," one commentator says on the video of the event.

"I felt something grab, get stuck in my leg rope and instantly jump away. And it just kept coming at my board," Mr Fanning said afterwards.

Mr Fanning said at first he swam away, but then decided to defend himself and turned to punch the shark in the back.

"I saw it taking my board away and I just started cracking it," he told a crowd that gathered around him once he was back on shore.

"I'm totally fine. I've got nothing wrong with me," Mr Fanning said.

"There's a small depression in my board and my leg wrap was bitten. I'm just totally tripping out. To walk away from that, I'm just so stoked. Oh man."


The World Surf League cancelled the remainder of the event and Fanning will split the prize money with fellow Australian surfer Julian Wilson, who was also in the water when the attack happened. The two will share second place.

"We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today," the league said in a statement.

"Mick's composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic."

"For it to happen in that fashion during the finals, where it actually showed that crazy aggression toward Mick Fanning, was such a crazy thing," said television commentator Ross Williams.

Irish Independent

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