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Story Makers of 2016: Mick Fanning's African Rematch

A year after it happened, people still couldn't get the image out of their heads. You've seen the clip; it broke the Internet. The one of Mick Fanning, mid-Final with Julian Wilson in the 2015 J-Bay Open getting knocked clean off his board by a curious Great White shark.

Mick Fanning is attacked by a shark during the Final of the J-Bay Open. The most frightening moment in pro surfing history. WSL / SCREENGRAB

That frantic thrashing of arms, the frightening beast's head piercing the surface, Mick Fanning momentarily underwater, nowhere to be seen. The jet skis flying toward Fanning, fighting for his life with a flurry of desperate punches to the giant shark's head.

Hell, even the commentators were speechless, their fear practically audible over webcast.

Mick Fanning at the JBay Open in South Africa. Mick Fanning, a year after the great white nudge. WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

The thing is, the comp at J-Bay was going to run again, and Mick would have to enter those same waters where the world watched him almost perish.

"The first thing was just getting out there again," Fanning said in July, when he returned to Jeffreys Bay. Clearly Mick was being modest because the three-time World Champion not only "got back in the water," but he tore the competition apart.

Mick's J-Bay Redemption
1:24
Mick Fanning looked sharp during his highly anticipated return to J-Bay, grabbing a crucial Round One win.

Indeed, Mick won every single heat he had out there, dismantling event favorites like Filipe Toledo and facing off with an in-form Julian Wilson in the Semifinals (a proper rematch from last year's terrifying Final).

As if there wasn't a wave like J-Bay that couldn't suit Mick's refined lines and rail-game any better, Fanning took out John John Florence in the Final for Mick's astounding fourth J-Bay Open win of his career. And he didn't only do it deservedly, but he did it with a bold, ferocious determination. I mean, the guy literally got attacked by an apex predator at the same exact wave!

Mick Bags His Fourth J-Bay Open
6:14
The three-time World Champ sprinted into his fourth consecutive J-Bay Final with his textbook carves, and came away with the win.

Lucky for Mick, though, all he saw in the 2016 J-Bay Open Final was empty, rifling righthanders...with no man in a grey suit this time around.

"It's definitely a very different feeling with this win," said Fanning. "There was a real emotional build-up coming back here this year. That Semifinal with Julian was really special and it was wonderful to have a heat with him again. Definitely some emotions went into it paddling out and it was just really special having a surf with him out there and both of us come in safe."

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