Stab Magazine | The next two days: Mick Fanning, post-shark encounter

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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 […]

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

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.

Photo: WSL

Photo: WSL

“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 jules fletch rundown

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

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.”Mick_Post

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.

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