Pro surfer Mick Fanning unexpectedly faced off against a great white shark earlier today during a competition in South Africa, barely escaping the predator as it approached him from behind.
The J-Bay Open was held at Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa, as CBS News reports, and was nearly concluded when the incident occurred. During the opening minutes of the final heat, Fanning was sitting on his surfboard, and was approached from behind by a white shark, its dorsal fin breaking the waves and announcing its presence. Once Fanning noticed the shark, he attempted to swim away from the great white, as footage of the incident was broadcast live. Much of the interaction was obscured by a wave, but the shark could be seen violently thrashing in the water, severing Fanning’s surfboard leash and removing him from atop it.
[Warning: Adult Language]
Luckily, Fanning was able to escape the incident unharmed. Reports suggested that there were two white sharks in the water with him, as NBC News points out, but it remained unclear whether that was the case following the attack. Speaking after the encounter, Fanning related that he punched the white shark in the back to get away, an action that garnered him praise in the media, as News.Com.Au points out.
“I had this feeling that something was behind (me), and all of a sudden I felt like I started getting pulled underwater. And then the thing came up and I was on my board and it was right there,” he recalled. “I had this thought, ‘What if it comes around for another go at me?’ Before I knew it, the boat was there…. I can’t believe it, I was tripping out. I’m totally tripping out.”
— Rip Curl (@ripcurl) July 19, 2015
Rescue boats were quickly on the scene, pulling Fanning and Julian Wilson, another finalist, from the water. The World Surf League canceled the competition following Fanning’s close encounter with the shark, citing the possibility of another attack. Fanning and Wilson split second place points and prize money in lieu of finishing the competition.
South Africa is considered a white shark hotspot, and one of the premier destinations to observe the predators in the wild. The sharks feed on local seals, as the Inquisitr previously reported, occasionally bursting from the water in a violent display.
— Coco Ho (@coco_ho) July 19, 2015
Following the incident, WSL Chief Executive Paul Speaker voiced his relief that both surfers managed to escape the situation unscathed. Referencing Mick Fanning’s close encounter with the white shark, he reflected that the surfers “kind of coexist with sharks in the water,” and that the sport does come with its inherent dangers.
[Image via the Sydney Morning Herald]