During the Final of the J-Bay Open Mick Fanning (AUS) was attacked by a shark. The World Surf League (WSL) Water Safety team responded quickly, immediately removing Fanning and fellow finalist Julian Wilson from the water. Miraculously, neither surfer was harmed in the attack.
After discussion with WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow, Wilson and Fanning decided to each take equal second in rankings points and split the prize purse awarded to the winner. Adriano de Souza (BRA), current World No. 1, will retain the yellow jersey and the top spot on the Jeep Leaderboard going into the next CT event, the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
The stage was set for a heavy day of competition at J-Bay, with solid conditions. Wilson's Quarterfinal heat against World No. 1 Adriano de Souza (BRA) could make or break his run at the No. 1 spot: A loss for the Brazilian would leave the door open for Wilson to take the yellow jersey.
De Souza put two midrange scores on the board right away. But Wilson fired back, finding a 6.93 to start and then earning an excellent-range score (of 8.00 or better) under the Brazilian's priority to take the lead. Next, in Wilson's Semifinal heat against Adrian Buchan (AUS), he remained selective and opened with an 8.73. An excellent-range backup saw him through to the Final -- a little payback after Buchan defeated him in Round 4.
The day's other heats included matchups among Fanning, Kelly Slater (USA) and Gabriel Medina (BRA). The three had previously faced off in a so-called superheat", and were now slated foe man-on-man matchups.
The first featured Slater and Medina, who had won the Round 4 heat with all three. The two traded seamless, rail-to-rail rides in the Quarterfinals. But Slater's opening turns earned back-to-back scores in the nine-point range, forcing Medina to chase down a near-perfect score in the back half of the heat. He came close, hacking up the lip on his backhand, but Slater's early heroics won him the heat. He went on to compete in the Semifinals, his first since the 2014 Hurley Pro at Trestles.
Fanning silenced competition with similar ferocity. His dramatic lip work earned him a high of a 9.57 in his Quarterfinal victory against injury replacement Alejo Muniz (BRA). When he later clashed with Slater in the Semifinals, he dropped two excellent-range scores right off the bat, forcing Slater into a combination situation in which he needed two new scores to catch up -- a rarity for the 11-time World Champion.
Slater was undeterred, picking apart a glassy open face for a 9.43, his fourth nine-pointer of the day. But Fanning, defending his title at Jeffreys, continued to up the ante with smooth turns and his signature, wrapping carves. A 9.60 for the Aussie carried him into the Final, where he was to have faced off against Wilson.
Following the shark attack, the WSL released this 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."
Read WSL CEO Paul Speaker's official statement following the incident here.