I’m sat in front of my laptop writing a blog post with the World Surf League JBay Open final on the big screen. Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson are in the water. Its 5 minutes or so into the heat and Julian Wilson has scored his first wave.
I glance away from the live action back to my laptop screen. The next thing I know, I hear the hooters which usually signify the end of the heat. Something’s very wrong.
I look up to see Mick Fanning scrambling onto the back of a jet ski with head bowed down. My heart’s in my mouth, I’m not sure what’s happened. He doesn’t look injured, but then I see him holding up his leash which has snapped in two and is detached from board.
It’s then that I hear the word ‘shark.’
I’m in disbelief and shock as the footage is replayed and Mick speaks to commentator Pete Mel. Three times world champion Mick has just been attacked by a great white shark.
Heroically, Mick punches the shark and startles it. As his fellow finalist Julian Wilson selflessly heads toward him thinking only of his friend, the water safety team reach them in lightning speed and pull them out of the water.
It is the first known attack on a professional surfer in a competition and it happens to the nicest, most humble guy on the planet. Thankfully, Mick is unscathed without even a scratch. He is visibly shocked and in his interview with WSL commentator Ronnie Blakey, the reality of what just happened starts to hit home. He is in tears, which sets me off. Julian Wilson is crying with shock and Pete Mel sits stunned and shocked trying to regroup as commissioner Kieran Perrow announces that the final will not run.
Twitter goes insane and messages of relief flood in from all over the world across the surfing community, so thankful that Mick has had such a lucky escape
We all know that there are sharks in the waters especially at some of the stops on the tour like Jay Bay, but you never expect to witness an attack in a live final on a world champion surfer who you follow and root for.
It was something that Surfabella and I were pondering only recently – does it ever cross the surfers mind in the line up in places like that and how do the WSL team prepare for such an incident?
It seems like today our questions were answered. Kelly Slater admitted that it crossed his mind about 10 times in each of his 3 heats and the way the water safety team reacted was flawless.
Today showed that although these athletes compete against each other, they are family – brothers who unite and put rivalries aside when one of their own is in need.
I hope that Mick can put this behind him and not let it affect his confidence or desire to get back in the water. He has a good network of friends and family around him to help him through this and I hope to see him back in action at the Billabong Pro in Tahiti next month.