“I was just sitting there and I felt something grab or get stuck in my leg rope and I instantly just jumped away,” is how Mick Fanning, three-time WSL Champion and defending event winner from Australia described being attacked by a shark in the opening minutes of the JBay Open Final against his fellow countryman, Julian Wilson.
“It (the shark) just kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins, I didn’t see any teeth. I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back,” Fanning said.
“I’m totally fine, I’ve got nothing wrong with me. There’s a small depression in my board and my leg rope got bitten and I’m totally tripping out.”
“I was just cruising and waiting for my turn, my opportunity and I knew Julian (Wilson) was down the point,” continued Fanning. “I was just about to get moving and start paddling again and all of a sudden I had this instinct that something was behind me.
“I started getting pulled underwater and then the thing came up and I was on my board and it was right there. I saw the whole thing thrashing around but I was getting dragged under by my leg rope.
“I felt like it kicked me off but it was still there going and I was still attached to my board. I felt like I punched it a couple of times and then it was dragging me and then my leg rope broke.
“I started swimming and screaming and yelling at Jules (Julian Wilson) to move as well, but he was coming at me,” said Fanning. “What a legend, coming after me. I was swimming in and I turned around and I had this thought, what happens if it comes to have another go at me, so I turned around so I could at least see it coming.
“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. I want to let all my family and friends know that I’m okay.”
According to Wilson, Mick was kind of out in no man’s land so he was really watching him and had had his eyes on him. “Mick was looking down the point and I saw the whole thing pop up behind him. “It can up and 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. The results don’t mean anything to me, I’m just happy he’s alive. I literally thought when I was paddling for him that I wasn’t going to get there in time, especially when I saw him off his board and swimming away.
“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.”
Also commenting on the shark attack, one of the world’s top surfing stars, Kelly Slater (AUS) said: “Now I’ve seen it all. I was coming up the beach and I saw all the boats and skis go straight to the line-up.
“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. I ran up the beach trying to get some information.
“I’m halfway between crying and laughing because he (Fanning) got so lucky. 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.”
The second Semifinal saw Slater and Fanning, the two most successful surfers at Jeffreys Bay and long-time rivals, battle for a place in the Final. The pair have had 15 previous man-on-man heats in CT history, with Slater taking 9 wins to Fanning’s 6 and their last match-up was the Final in Fiji in 2013. Two 8-point rides from Fanning with less than ten minutes gone left the 11-time World Champion in a combination situation.
Slater managed to escape with an excellent 9.43 for a long floater, quick barrel and series of carving turns but was left searching for a 7.30. Fanning sealed the deal with a 9.63 in the final minutes and sailed through to the Final. The Semifinal berth for Slater marks his best result of the season sees him move up to 6th place on the rankings.
Both Fanning and Wilson will receive equal second place and 8,000 points on the Jeep Leaderboard. They will split the prize money between them equally, receiving $70,000 each. The result sees Fanning move up two places to second on rankings, Wilson move up to third and Adriano de Souza (BRA) retain the Jeep leader jersey.
Before the incident occurred the pair were set for an exciting 40-minute all-Australian Final with Wilson searching for his first CT win and Fanning looking to defend his J-Bay Open title and claim his 21st CT victory. The pair has had four previous head-to-head heats with Fanning claiming the win each time.
See original post and video of attack: