Stab Magazine | 30 Seconds That Changed Pro Surfing

30 Seconds That Changed Pro Surfing

Story by Jake Howard  Repercussions? Yes, Mick and Jules walked away with all their skin, but to be sure, the impact of the shark incident at J-Bay will be felt. The contest was cancelled, and that has world title implications as Mick or Jules would’ve moved into first with a win (Adriano now remains in […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Story by Jake Howard 

Repercussions? Yes, Mick and Jules walked away with all their skin, but to be sure, the impact of the shark incident at J-Bay will be felt. The contest was cancelled, and that has world title implications as Mick or Jules would’ve moved into first with a win (Adriano now remains in the yellow). But long term, there’s a lot of chatter coming out of South Africa right now that the J-Bay Open will not be on the schedule next year.

Photo: WSL

Regaining composure will be an understandably lengthy process for Mick. Photo: WSL/Kirstin Scholtz

Describing his encounter with a great white shark in the opening minutes of the final, as the omnipresent webcast camera rolled, a gamut of emotions twisted through Mick Fanning. He started with a sigh of relief. Then came tears. A chuckle of faux humour served as a prelude to a blank stare of acceptance. Finally a wave of “holy fuck, I almost just died” smashed him like a freight train. By interview’s end he just kept repeating, “I’m trippin’.” Julian Wilson, the other hero of the tale, also broke down. Symptoms of shock were evident in both.

“When I heard Pottz say ‘shit’ on the broadcast I was able to finally add it all up,” recounts Peter “PK” King, who was shooting photos from an oceanfront deck in front of the event site.


CNN_Mick_SharkBut before Mick and Jules could dry their eyes, the world was feasting on the incident. And not just our little surf world. Media big dogs entered the fray. The Associated Press, CNN, ESPN, People, Time, Fox News, the BBC, the Washington Post, NBC News and tons of others all immediately seized upon the headline: “World champion surfer attacked by shark.” The real-time viral component, the “assets,” the drama, it was simply too good to pass up for any editor on an otherwise sleepy news day.

Mick_E_NEwsNo doubt this will be a devastating hit to the South African surf/tourism industry, but for now there’s a global audience, surfers and non-surfers, consuming the ordeal. Consider this; within seven hours of posting, the WSL’s footage of the attack garnered over 2.3 million views. By comparison, Owen Wright’s perfect final in Fiji only earned 61k views. The WSL has clocked another 9.4 million views on Facebook, and that’s just the actual footage from the strike. Subsequent edits of interviews have trickled into social feeds and are bolstering analytics by the minute. Those are big-boy numbers and point to undoubtedly the most viewed story in surf history.

The social media deluge rained down, too. Mick’s own Instagram has grown by 50,000 followers since the attack. It’s trending on Twitter. Mick’s legacy isn’t just three world titles now. He’ll forever be the man that threw dukes with a shark and won. Combine the media attention of all three titles, and this still blows doors.

Of course every surfer and his mother sent the “scariest thing I’ve ever seen” sentiment, that’s to be expected, but it’s the people outside our bubble who commented that was revealing of the reach.

“If you punch a shark at a surfing competition for the rest of your life you get to be the guy who punched a shark at a surfing competition,” tweeted American comedian Andy Richter.

“It’s just terrifying to think that such a large shark could be so close to a surfing contest and I bet Mick Fanning is one hell of a relieved surfer,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “I think all of us, we go out into the waves and we love to see dolphin fins but if there’s any doubt about what kind of a fin it is, it’s pretty scary.”

“Such a heavy moment in surfing and sport, to see a shark attack live during a surf contest was surreal… mad respect for fending of the shark,” posted Shane Victorino, an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox who hails from Maui.

“This was savage. So glad @Mick_Fanning is all good!” tweeted Olympic gold medal snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg.

Meanwhile, gossip icon Perez Hilton will be “avoiding the ocean” for a while. Bummer.


Derek Hynd riding finless within an hour of Mick’s run-in. Image: PK

Something else that happened later on was rather surprising, too: “A couple of locals charged out into the empty lineup,” continues PK. “Derek Hynd reckoned it had been an hour and the shark had moved on. It was eerie watching him glide across six-foot walls through an empty lineup on his 11′ 6” (finless board). It’s been a few hours now and the whole ordeal seems so surreal. The power is out as South Africa has these mandated load shedding blackouts, so the ominous feeling is sticking strong.”

Regardless of impressions, insights and reach, two surfers stared down the most lethal animal in the ocean and came through the ordeal alive and unharmed.

“It makes it really clear to me how tightly connected the surf world is, especially when something like this happens,” notes PK.

Photo: WSL/Kirstin Scholtz

Mick, alive. Photo: WSL/Kirstin Scholtz


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent


You’re Gonna Click On A New Oscar Lungburne Video

Style that can't be denied.

Sep 29, 2022

Long Read: An Angel At My Table

From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…

Sep 28, 2022


Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance

A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.

Sep 28, 2022

Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight

Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.

Sep 28, 2022

Wait, Are We Going To See Moana Jones In The Olympics At Teahupo’o?

Team USA (women) and Japan (men) should be able to choose anyone they want to…

Sep 27, 2022

Donald Brink and Matt Biolos Win Mick Fanning’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test

And we had a party in Oceanside to celebrate.

Sep 26, 2022

Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games

Teams Japan, USA, and France move into Victor’s Village.

Sep 26, 2022

The Best Euro Surf Trips That Mightn’t Be On Your Radar

Want to know which less-trodden nation offers the most potential?

Sep 26, 2022

Former CT Surfer Chris Davidson Passes Away At Age 45

A radical life tragically ends outside a bar in New South Wales.

Sep 25, 2022

Where You Should Be In Europe Right Now

An overview of the region's greatest hits.

Sep 25, 2022

The Team Ukraine Interview

“There are mines near the shore, and already a lot of people have died…so it’s…

Sep 24, 2022

Mormaii Founder Raided By Brazilian Feds On Suspicion Of Plotting Against Democracy

Curiously, he's the second surf brand founder to become entangled in a political scandal of…

Sep 24, 2022

The Electric Acid Surfboard Test With Mick Fanning, Episode 4

There are three boards left. Which one is Mick taking home?

Sep 23, 2022

Watch: Tresha

The Bella Kenworthy Edit.

Sep 22, 2022

Photos: Welcome To Vans Stab High Indonesia, Presented By Monster Energy

Welcome to Lakey Peak. Now do airs.

Sep 22, 2022


Taro Watanabe Is The Love Child Of Your Favorite 80’s Surfers

Watch his new edit 'Sonic Youth' now.

Sep 22, 2022

The Four-Finned, Carbon-Wrapped, Vacuum-Bagged Board That Won The 2022 World Title 

The minds behind Sharp Eye and Dark Arts break down Filipe's winning plank.

Sep 22, 2022

Selema Masekela Discusses The New Film “Sweet Adventure,” A New Love For El Salvador and His Not-So-New Music Career 

"It's literally the entirety of my life coming full circle in a way that I…

Sep 22, 2022