The next two days: Mick Fanning, post-shark encounter
Story by Morgan Williamson After the J-Bay Open’s final competitors switched from Mick Fanning vs. Julian Wilson, to Mick Fanning vs. Shark, the world was in awe. And, by now we’ve all seen the footage, watched the interviews, cue’d into the beach madness. We gasped at Julian Wilson’s Medal of Valour heroics, and the insides of […]
Story by Morgan Williamson
After the J-Bay Open’s final competitors switched from Mick Fanning vs. Julian Wilson, to Mick Fanning vs. Shark, the world was in awe. And, by now we’ve all seen the footage, watched the interviews, cue’d into the beach madness. We gasped at Julian Wilson’s Medal of Valour heroics, and the insides of our chests dripped with emotion. We pondered the fight or flight response, curious at where we’d stand if presented a similar situation. Right now, Mick’s a hard guy to get a hold of for obvious reasons. And, in the meantime we encourage any sort of decompression. That shit was heavy. So, we dropped a line to Mick’s right-hand man, good friend and Rip Curl team manager, Ryan ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. To see what a gent who threw dukes with a shark during a live national broadcast does, when the sun sets and the media settles.
“It was pretty surreal,” Fletch recalls of the initial strike. “When it happened, I was standing with Kai (Otton) and Ace (Buchan). We didn’t know what to do from the beach. We wanted to be able to help but couldn’t.” Then a wave of relief drifted through the beach crowd and global viewers alike. The sight of Mick’s unscathed body on the ski, thumb pointed up with intact limbs, immediately etched him further into the stone of legend.
“We didn’t really know how Mick was going to be,” Fletch continues. “They took him to KP’s (WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow) office, where he and Jules talked about what they were going to do. From there he walked back down to his room.” Emotions were charged. For reasons far prioritized over points, yellow jerseys and titles. “I was there with Joel (Parkinson), Kai, Ace and a few other Australians. We sort of just sat around, it was obviously pretty emotional. But we were just there for support. It was a really weird situation. One that none of us had ever dealt with. All the boys were just making sure they were there for him.”
Mick and Jules give a relieved Fletch the rundown on the duke out. Image: WSL
Then the decompression began. “His phone had like 1,000 texts,” says Fletch. “He called his mum and dad, and the people closest to him. Then we had a couple beers and kept it pretty mellow. We set up a Braai (BBQ). Everybody came by: Michel (Bourez), Nat (Young) and Kelly (Slater). Jules was hanging with us. He kicked it through the night. I don’t think anybody will forget what Julian attempted to do for Mick.”
Adriano de Souza was at the airport at the time of the incident. “He caught wind of what had happened and immediately turned around and came back to see if Mick was alright. It was really cool.” That’s something beyond sportsmanship.
Mick collapses after the fact. Photo: WSL
Times like these force any competitive vibe to alleviate and all that continues to matter is the human connection. “The initial plan for Mick, was to let him get as much sleep as possible,” Fletch tells. “But, we had a good time and kept it light-hearted. By the end of the night we were all having laughs. It turned into a celebration, about what happened, what could’ve been and how relieved we all were to be able to share the time together. Everybody came by to make sure he was alright, have a beer and give a hug. It was really special.”
It’s now been about 36 hours since the attack. Today’s a new day, filled with media inquiries and the counting of blessings. “He seemed okay when I mentioned it this morning,” says Fletch. “He’s obviously decompressing. The reality of what happened has kicked in. But he’s ready to move on. I think he’ll surf J-Bay again. He’s not one of those guys that won’t let it phase him too much.”
Earlier today, Mick released his first statement in the aftermath of the attack on Instagram. It was coupled with a black and white photo of his and Jules embrace. It read, “So thankful to be able to have this hug with Julian Wilson. This man came to my aid like a warrior!! It was by far the scariest thing I have ever been through and am still rattled. In our sport we always think about sharks and know we are in their domain. Many thanks to all the people that have reached out and sent their wishes. J-bay is an incredible place and I will go back one day. Thanks to the WSL announcers and water patrol for being on top of us. And thanks for the care they showed us and to all my friends on tour that were by my side. Love you all.”
Mick and Jules have requested a one-off press conference in Sydney today, hoping to get it all over with and not have to continue re-living it, after which they’ll both finally go home.
Leandro Dora: Pro Surfer, Businessman, Punk Rock Festival Organizer, Spiritual Mentor, And World Title Winning Surf Coach
Meet one of the most beloved and effective individuals in the athlete's zone.
Long Read: An Angel At My Table
From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…
Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance
A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.
Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight
Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.
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…
Donald Brink and Matt Biolos Win Mick Fanning’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test
And we had a party in Oceanside to celebrate.
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.
The Best Euro Surf Trips That Mightn’t Be On Your Radar
Want to know which less-trodden nation offers the most potential?
Former CT Surfer Chris Davidson Passes Away At Age 45
A radical life tragically ends outside a bar in New South Wales.
The Team Ukraine Interview
“There are mines near the shore, and already a lot of people have died…so it’s…
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…
The Electric Acid Surfboard Test With Mick Fanning, Episode 4
There are three boards left. Which one is Mick taking home?
Photos: Welcome To Vans Stab High Indonesia, Presented By Monster Energy
Welcome to Lakey Peak. Now do airs.
Taro Watanabe Is The Love Child Of Your Favorite 80’s Surfers
Watch his new edit 'Sonic Youth' now.