J-Bay Open

Fanning Challenges Brutal Waves

UPDATED: August 31, 2015

Mick Fanning (AUS) has had a remarkable couple of months, and he isn't done yet. Most recently, when big wave charger Mark Mathews (AUS) invited him to surf the infamous Shipstern Bluff -- a wave as awe-inspiring as it is scary -- Fanning said yes. He isn't known for his big wave prowess, but the photos and videos speak volumes about Fanning's courage, skill and strength.

Fanning may have had adrenaline running high already. After his traumatic run-in with a shark at J-Bay in July, he paddled out for his first surf back -- and saw another shark. Next, he got back to competition at the Billabong Pro Tahiti at Teahupo'o, one of the most daunting breaks in the world.

Mick Fanning for Aug. 29 Making Waves Mick Fanning air-drops at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on August 29, 2015. Photo by Adam Gibson via @mfanno. - WSL

See more from Fanning's incredible adventure in Tasmania, and take a look at his latest on Instagram for his very casual reaction to facing down a giant.

Fanning, Mad Hueys Hit Snapper
Mick Fanning joins The Mad Hueys and friends for a surf session before he gets back in the jersey. Video courtesy of The Mad Hueys.

Fanning has also been surfing in familiar territory, at home at Snapper Rocks. He opted there for an unfamiliar board, a 5'7 DHD Black Diamond quad-fin. Stay tuned to see what he'll be riding for the Hurley Pro at Trestles, which starts Wednesday, September 9.

(Watch the three-time World Champ back home, back in action.)

Reactions Around the Web:

Fanning on GMA Fanning on CNN - WSL

Fanning appeared on US ABC program Good Morning America Monday, August 3, to discuss the encounter.

The segment also featured a clip from his appearance on 60 Minutes, which featured his return to the lineup for the first time since the incident at J-Bay.

"I just didn't want to leave it too long," he said of the ocean waters key to his career. "I felt like if I left it too long I would start playing tricks with myself and having too many mind games go on so I just really wanted to get it done pretty quickly."

(Watch his full interview here.)

Fanning also appeared on US news show Anderson Cooper 360, in which he explains what the encounter felt like.

Mick Fanning appears on Anderson Cooper 360, on CNN in the US. Fanning on CNN - WSL

"I saw a splash behind me, and when that happened I felt something pulling on my leg, and I guess that was when it was stuck on my leg rope. I knew something was wrong then."

(Watch the full segment here.)

Just two weeks after the incident, Fanning will donate his $75,000 television appearance fee to recent shark attack victim, surfer Mathew Lee.

Mick Fanning will donate to shark attack victim. Fanning announces that he'll donate an appearance fee to a recent shark attack victim. - WSL

Lee was mauled by a great white in Ballina [Australia] early last month. ... The three-times world champion Fanning gave an interview to Channel Nine's 60 Minutes program on Sunday night to talk about his ordeal at Jeffreys Bay, from which he walked away unscathed.

Lee was less fortunate and has undergone surgery on both legs after the attack by a sizeable shark -- up to four meters long, according to eye witness accounts -- while bodyboarding off Lighthouse Beach on 2 July. He remains at the Gold Coast University hospital.

(Read the story here.)

South African actress Charlize Theron had her own take on sharks at Jeffreys Bay, in comments to USA Today.

"It's a place I used to go as a kid on summer vacations. We had a house [near Jeffreys Bay]. As a kid we would swim in the ocean and you would hear...the lifeguards blowing on their whistles and all the kids would just run out of the water.

"We would just stand there and we would watch the shark -- this was so sick -- as the wave would come up, we would watch the shark swim way all the way [out of the bay] and then the whistle would go off again. And we would just run back into the water!"

(Read her full interview here.)

Mick Fanning's mother, Elizabeth Osborne, was watching the Final of the J-Bay Open and detailed the experience.

"I was absolutely terrified," said Osborne. "I thought we'd lost him because the waves came and we couldn't see him. But he was so brave, it was like slow motion, I just couldn't imagine him coming out of it."

(Listen to Osborne's full statement here)

Fellow CT Surfer Taj Burrow previously spotted a shark during competition at J-Bay in 2003. The Australian, who witnessed the attack on the LIVE webcast, told Stab Magazine what it was like to see his friend defend his life.

"I'm still kind of in shock, I can't even imagine how Mick feels," Burrow said. "I thought he was just getting eaten in front of a live audience on live TV. One hundred percent, I just thought he was getting rag-dolled by a great white. Because that little swell came and he disappeared behind it. And I noticed that the cameraman immediately went to a wide shot, because they must've thought the same. That was horrible. Poor guy. Lucky guy! It honestly feels like a miracle."

(Read the full interview.)

A sports psychologist discussed with Australia's Surfing Life what happens during and after a traumatic event. It may take some time, but if Fanning stays close to his nearest and dearest, he will likely emerge stronger for what he went through.

"It's important to note that it was a highly adrenalised day for Mick already. He surfed multiple heats and so his sympathetic nervous system would have been in and out of 'fight or flight' mode all day. Then he's sitting there, completely focused on what his next move is going to be as an athlete, and then the moment he's realised what's going on, that he's basically facing his mortality, his fight or flight response would immediately supercharge, sending a massive adrenaline surge through his entire system. ...Then the water patrol arrive and create physical safety, and once everyone realises no harm to Mick or Julian, the activation system begins to drop away from the redline, and then often a flood of mixed emotions begin to pour in."

(Read the full Q&A.)

Watch Fanning's Encounter
See the real-time replay of Mick Fanning's shark encounter during the J-Bay Final.

The WSL Official Statement:

"We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today. Mick's composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable -- they are truly world class at what they do.

"The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both Finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open. We appreciate the ongoing support we have in South Africa and once again want to express our gratitude to the Water Safety Team."

Seconds after Mick Fanning (AUS) was attacked by a shark, he and Julian Wilson (AUS) were picked up by safety boats and removed from the water. The two were just minutes into the Final of at the J-Bay Open when Fanning was attacked. Neither surfer was physically harmed.

Commissioner's Address
CT Commissioner Kieren Perrow discusses next steps after the contest was abruptly cut short.

After meeting with Commissioner Kieren Perrow, Fanning and Wilson agreed to take second place each and split the prize money between them. This is the first time in surfing history that there has been an attack during an event.

For a full breakdown of what happened, watch the WSL's exclusive coverage of the incident. Check out the Finals Day recap and the J-Bay results page for details on the competition.

Read WSL CEO Paul Speaker's official statement following the incident here.