“To walk away from a shark attack without a scratch on you is a miracle.”
This was Australian pro surfer Mick Fanning’s response to surviving a great white shark attack during the finals of the Jeffreys Bay (J-Bay) Open competition in South Africa.
Fanning, speaking at a media conference in Sydney, said it will probably take “a couple of weeks” to get over the shock of attack which was captured on live television.
“I’m doing okay … It goes through waves and stuff. It brings up emotions,” he said.
“It’ll probably take a couple of weeks. I don’t know how long it will take.”
The Australian surfer made it out of the water without injury.
Fanning recalled getting on a flight out of Port Elizabeth after the incident. A woman sitting next to him on the plane was reading a newspaper which had the shark attack on the front page.
Fanning said he broke down in tears and had to take a moment before regathering himself and reading the article.
Fanning said: “I’m sure I’ll go back surfing.” He was anxious to get back out.
“I’ve been surfing for 30 years and we’ve seen sharks in the distance,”he said. “It’s like walking across the street – you never know [the moment when you might get hit].
Fanning had a somewhat philosophical message for the shark and other surfers and beach-goers.
“Thanks for not eating me. We are in their domain. It’s like if you go to a lion’s cage, and you jump in, one day, your number will come up. I guess I am lucky it wasn’t my time,” he said.
Here’s the horrible attack, caught on camera:
And here’s how Fanning described the attack and the moments leading up to it.
“I was ready, I was calm. We were there for the final. The last thing on my mind was a shark,” he said.
“I felt like I was just about to start moving… and then all of a sudden I felt a presence or something behind me and I jumped on my board.
“It tailed my board. I don’t know why it didn’t bite.
“It kept coming back. I was on top of it.”
Fanning said he tried to use his board to fend off the shark.
“I was off my board and all of a sudden it came back again,” he said.
“It was right there. That’s when I punched it hard. I can’t remember if I punched the shark hard or if it was just baby punches.
“That’s when my leg rope broke and I started to get away. I didn’t know whether to go for my board or swim for shore.”
“I started doing freestyle.
“But then I turned around on my back, waiting for it. I had my fist cocked ready to go but luckily it didn’t come again.
Fanning said the whole incident happened really fast.
“I was just waiting for it to come and take a leg or two,” he said.
“I didn’t think the shark was that big when I first saw it. But then I go back and look at the video and look at the fin and the tail.”
He said fellow competitor Julian Wilson put himself in harm’s way to look after the embattled surfer.
Julian Wilson, who was in the water with Fanning at the time of the attack, described his reaction to the attack.
“At first I just froze and saw Mick getting manhandled by the shark,” he said.
“I felt like I couldn’t get there in time.
“I saw him disappear under the water.”
Wilson, who described the shark as being about twice the size of Fanning, said he simply wanted to get his board to his mate.
“As soon as I realised the danger and what was going on, I couldn’t get their quick enough,” he said.
“I felt like I had to hold it together for him.”
Wilson said adrenaline was flowing through the two men after they were rescued and reached the safety of the shore.
“We were high fiving and hugging,” he said.
“When we got back to the competition area, the tears started flowing. Everybody was emotional, everyone working at the contest, everyone was crying.”
Wilson said it’s “going to be hard” dealing with the shock and gravity of the situation for a while longer.
Both Fanning and Wilson said they’ll return to J-Bay for next year’s competition.
“I have to go back. It will be hard. But you have to face these things front on,” Fanning said.
“In the end, I have to deal with it when I come to it.”
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