Stab Magazine | Mick Fanning Officially Announces His Return To The Scene Of The Famous Shark Attack: The J-Bay Open
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Mick Fanning Officially Announces His Return To The Scene Of The Famous Shark Attack: The J-Bay Open

“We were always coming back.” 

news // Jun 28, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you’ve watched the last few WSL events, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. During the commercial breaks, in promotion for the J-Bay open, there’s been an advert featuring Mr Fanning flowing down a South African wall with his pointer finger in the air. The words: “We were always coming back,” exhale from Mick’s mouth as the scene cuts ominously. And, when he announced he’d be only surfing select events this year, he stated J-Bay has always been on the radar.

“When I decided I was only going to do a few events this season, J-Bay was always on the cards,” Mick told the WSL. “Even if I decided I didn’t want to surf in the J-Bay Open, I was always going to go back. I’ve had so many great memories there that to leave J-Bay on the note from last year just didn’t seem right. I want to go back and right the wrongs and move forward.” Mick’s won the event three times (2002, 2006, 2014). 

It’s been a “personal year” for Mick, one which followed an all-too personal account of everything in his life. Between the shark attack at J-Bay, getting back together with his wife, splitting up again, the death of his brother and being named “–man of the year” by countless sources including GQ and the Waterman’s Ball, his life’s been thoroughly covered. He’s become the most universally well-known gent in surfing.

So far this season, Mick’s competed in three events and his results have been good enough for re-qualification — at this time. He’s currently sitting at world number 16 with a 13th at Snapper, third at Bells and a fifth place finish at the Fiji Pro.

You’ll recall last year’s theatrics during the J-Bay final where Mick was knocked from his board and fought off what was believed to be a 12-15 foot great white. And, when Julian Wilson put his head down in pure valour and paddled towards Mr Fanning to lend a helping hand. It was the most selfless act ever committed in the history of surf competition… the event was ultimately called off.

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The flood of emotion following the incident was all-too-real. Here two world champs forget about competition and embrace life. Photo: WSL

In preparation for J-Bay, and with the fear of a competitor being mauled by a shark at an all-time high, the WSL has upped its surveillance and response capabilities. They’ve employed an emerging sonar technology know as the “Clever Buoy” and added additional water patrol personnel.

“I trust the WSL and the measures they’ve put in place,” Mr Fanning said. “It is, however, one of those things where it is the ocean and, ultimately, there is not a lot anyone can do. I’m thinking positive and looking forward to coming back. The first surf is going to be a little bit tricky to get through my head. I’ve surfed lots of different places and have seen sharks since then and haven’t felt too concerned. It’s all part of surfing. We’re not going to go out and put a cage around J-Bay. We want to surf the wave and keeping everyone safe is a collective thing between the WSL and the surfers.”

On the potential for a full-time return in 2017, Mick’s on the fence. “2016 has been really fun to have some time off and do different things,” he said. “It’s been really fulfilling for me personally to go to places where I haven’t been able to before. I’ve made an effort to distance myself from the tour. As far as 2017 goes, I couldn’t tell you right now – whether I’ll be back or not full time. I probably couldn’t tell you what’s going to happen in a month. I don’t know. I’m enjoying the freedom of doing different things and having no schedule right now.”

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