Internet adds humour to Mick Fanning shark attack

If winning three world surfing titles wasn’t enough for Mick Fanning, he built his own legend a little more on Sunday when he fought off a shark attack during a surfing competition in South Africa.

The Australian was taking part in the J-Bay Open when the shark struck. He struggled with the animal before jetskis and boats came to his rescue and helped him back to shore. Fanning was understandably shaken after the incident. “All of [a] sudden, I just had this instinct that something was behind me,” Fanning told the World Surf League website.

“And then all of the sudden I felt like I started getting pulled under water. Then the [shark] came up, and I was on my board and it was like right there, and I saw the whole thing thrashing around.”

“I was getting dragged under by my leg wrap, and then I felt like it kicked me off, but it was still there, and I was still attached to my board. I felt like it was dragging me under water, and then my leg wrap broke, and I started swimming and screaming.” 

  • Watch video:

Despite the ordeal, Fanning still managed to pull off a quote pretty much pulled from The Big Book of Australiana. “I just can’t believe it. I’m just tripping … To walk away from that, I’m just so stoked.” 

The remainder of the competition was called off and the World Surf League commissioner, Kieran Perrow, said the incident had made its mark. “It’s shaken everyone,” Perrow said. “We’re just happy to see [Fanning] safe and alive. It’s not something you believe would ever happen, and to see it unfold on live [television] is incredibly scary for everyone.” 

Fanning is one of the greats of modern surfing. Only two men, the great Kelly Slater and Fanning’s compatriot Mark Richards, have won more world titles. Fanning himself is known as a modest and understated competitor, who has overcome serious obstacles to reach the peak of his sport: he has dealt with serious injuries, while his brother was killed in a car accident with another surfer, Joel Green.

Outpour on social media
There was an initial outpouring of sympathy and shock on social media after Fanning tangled with the animal during the final of the ASP world tour event at Jeffreys Bay.

But this soon evolved into a mixture of pride, punning and photoshopping.

Fanning told how he “punched it in the back”, providing ample material for everyone to work with.

Others were quick to point out Fanning’s other qualities amid a growing sense of relief that the former champion from Tweed Heads, New South Wales, had survived unscathed.

But there’s always more than one side to a story, and some started to consider the other party in this terribly unfortunate affair. Perhaps the shark was misunderstood?

There was also the inevitable Jaws-based offering. And there is always space to riff off Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy character in Anchorman. Even a little dark humour crept in. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Please don’t hurt the shark – it’s a media star

It's unlikely a full-grown great white could be scared off with a punch, even from Mike Tyson.

Visceral thrill as man beats Jaws

The spectacle of a Spielbergian scenario with a hero and happy ending delighted TV viewers.

My brush with Jaws

How do you survive a potentially lethal attack by a great white shark? Mathieu Dasnois found out on the Wild Coast.

Team defends shark research

Ocearch says its work could help to save human lives in the sea.

Experts cite risky research after man dies in shark attack

A fatal shark attack at Kogel Bay has conservationists up in arms over what they call risky research practices involving great white sharks.

South Africa’s deadly beaches

South Africa is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, but is also the site of fatal shark attacks which have experts puzzling over the cause.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

Ghost fishing gear an ‘immortal menace’ in oceans

Lost and illegal tackle is threatening marine life and the lives of people making a living from the sea

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday