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.”
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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.
Not sure what was more disturbing; #MickFanning being attacked by a shark on TV, or how inarticulate the announcer was describing it.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) July 19, 2015
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?
— Gargi Rawat (@GargiRawat) July 20, 2015
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