Stab Magazine | Mick Fanning attacked by shark in J-Bay Open final; Event cancelled!
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Mick Fanning attacked by shark in J-Bay Open final; Event cancelled!

Finals day of the 2015 J-Bay Open has been cancelled after Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark. Webcast history was made when the wildest thing to ever happen in the history of professional surfing unfolded live: Three minutes and 47 seconds into the Mick Fanning vs Julian Wilson final, a fin appeared behind Mick. Splashing […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Finals day of the 2015 J-Bay Open has been cancelled after Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark.

Webcast history was made when the wildest thing to ever happen in the history of professional surfing unfolded live: Three minutes and 47 seconds into the Mick Fanning vs Julian Wilson final, a fin appeared behind Mick. Splashing ensued.

Web viewers around the world had to wait the longest, most surreal 15 seconds of their lives as Mick was hit by the shark. Had the unthinkable happened? Had a pro surfer been taken out during a heat? People on the beach immediately burst into screams and tears, certain that Mick was done for. The thing was, the wave in the foreground lurched and obscured Mick from view. When a ski finally arrived, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as he climbed on the back (intact), gave the thumbs up, and attempted to compose himself.

“I don’t care if I ever surf another heat again,” Mick would later say.

mick fanniing

Photo: WSL

“I was sitting on my board, I felt like I was about to lie down and start paddling,” Mick said. “Then I had this feeling that something was coming up behind me. That’s when I got hit. I was knocked off my board and it was right there next to it. It pulled me underwater and eventually my leg rope broke. Julian was down the point and I was trying to yell at him not to paddle back out. Eventually a little wave came and I just started swimming as hard as I could.”

“I punched it in the back,” said Mick far too calmly.

Julian was further down the point after riding the final’s only wave. “When it happened Julian actually raced towards Mick when the shark was chowing him,” says photographer Ryan Miller, who was dripping wet on the shore having just swam in from shooting previous heats. “He took off at full speed, just to get in there and help him out.”

“It was the furthest thing from my mind,” said Julian. “It was 2:30 in the afternoon. The sky was blue, the waves were pumping, honestly, it’s the furthest thing from my mind. After my opening wave I was paddling back out and looking right at Mick. I saw the whole thing go down. I started paddling as hard as I could to get to him, figuring I had my board and I could stab the shark or use it as some kind of a weapon.”

mickboard

Photo: WSL

“When Mick came in he actually looked pretty damn good,” continues Miller. “Mick was telling stories abut how it was chewing on his legrope and he tried to punch it a couple of times. He was happy to be alive. I mean, he was super damn rattled, but he was happy to be out of the water. And, there were no teeth marks in him.”

“I’m okay,” said Mick. “There’s not a scratch on me. There’s a small pressure ding on my board and my leash broke, but otherwise I’m fine. I’m just tripping. When I got on the boat afterwards there was a lot of adrenaline going, but it’s starting to wear off and, mate, I’m just tripping.

“I don’t care if I ever surf another heat again.”

hugboys

Photo: WSL

“The points don’t matter at all,” said Julian. “Mick’s alive and he’s okay. Nothing else matters.”

An ambulance arrived on the scene, and it’s reported that Mick was in a total state of shock. He’s now safely back in his hotel room, with all those around him making sure he doesn’t see the footage.

“We have rules and regulations in place and there’s actually two sharks apparently,” WSL tour director Renato Hickel told Rosy Hodge. “First time in surfing history when a surfer has been attacked by two sharks, we’re gonna address the situation.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 2.27.26 am

Social media, as is the tendency, erupted in the minutes following the incident:

“I’m glad my friends are alive. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen! I don’t want to see it happen again…” – Owen Wright

“Shark attack on Mick Fanning during the final in JBay. I cannot believe you’re ok brother. We lost many friends and brothers in Reunion Island lately with shark attacks so this shows how lucky Mick was this time.” – Jeremy Flores

“The craziest thing to ever happen in professional surfing. I am so happy that @mfanno is physically ok… I’m sure something like this doesn’t ever leave your mind… I’m so sorry that this has happened. #newhero #TIA” – Jordy Smith

“The heaviest thing in sport” – Matt Hoy

“Thanks jesus for save my brother. Thank you Jesus @mfanno.” – Adriano De Souza

“So glad @mfanno is okay. Never ever seen something like this is pro surfing.” – Damien Hobgood

“That was so heavy. Glad you’re alright.” – Matt Banting

“Holy shit!!!!!!!!! I’m glad your alive @mfanno” – Jack Freestone

“That’s just out of control. Really glad it ended the way it did because it could have been really bad. Stoked you’re ok.” – Cory Lopez

“You have always been a legend but you just hit hero status! I am so happy that you are still with us and unharmed after the shark encounter! Also @julian_wilson for heading towards Mick to help him out! Look forward to seeing you again soon” – Josh Kerr

Mick was incredibly quick on the face all event. And, quick to fight back when the shark came at him. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Mick was incredibly quick on the face all event. And, quick to fight back when the shark came at him. Photo: WSL/Cestari

There’s no question that J-Bay is a sharky wave. Taj Burrow hit the beach in 2007 after seeing a massive great white during his heat there. There was also a fatal attack in October 2013. But this marks the first time that a physical encounter has occurred during a professional surfing event. And it’s one Mick, and likely anyone who saw it, will never forget.

The WSL have official cancelled the remainder of the event, with points and prize money being split between the two finalists. “We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today. Mick’s composure and quick-acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable – they are truly world class at what they do.

“The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open. We appreciate the ongoing support we have South Africa and once again want to express our gratitude to the Water Safety Team.”

But, the big kicker here is that today may have been the last time we see the world’s elite surfing J-Bay. Most believe this will be the end of professional surfing and Jeffreys Bay.

Regardless of what call the WSL made, there was never a chance that Mick was going to surf in the morning.

Understandably.

South African local, Grant 'Twiggy' Baker, reckons this is the leash that saved Mick Fanning’s life. He believes the fact that the shark hit this first meant Mick survived the attack without a scratch.

South African local, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, reckons this is the leash that saved Mick Fanning’s life. He believes the fact that the shark hit this first meant Mick survived the attack without a scratch.

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