“Holy shit!” said WSL Announcer Martin Potter following the dramatic incident. Fanning’s run-in with a shark in the Final heat against fellow Aussie Julian Wilson at J-Bay is a surfer’s absolute worst nightmare. And it’s perhaps the craziest thing to happen in professional surfing history. Fortunately for Fanning, he walked away from the situation unscathed. Extremely shaken, but unscathed.
Wilson had just dropped into the opening wave of the heat and was paddling back up the point as Fanning sat out the back concentrated on the horizon, waiting for the next set. Then, with 36 minutes still on the clock, Fanning went to reposition himself in the lineup. On the live webcast, all the viewers saw was a grey dorsal fin breaching the water’s surface behind him. Realizing immediately that his life was in serious danger, Fanning kicked and punched as the shark wrapped around the front of him. The water safety crew in the boat and on the jetskis rushed over immediately. Had it not been for the crew’s fast-acting response, this situation could’ve been a lot worse.
As they pulled Fanning into the boat, his leash had been bitten in half leaving his board floating in the open water. Fortunately, he was unharmed. Wilson found shelter on the back of a jetski with Commentator Peter Mel. As they were brought up the point, where they could all exit onto the beach without entering the water, the drone footage from above spotted the shark as well as another one still lurking around the surf spot.
The competition was put on hold, as this is a very rare, very scary event marks the first-ever incident in professional surfing history. The options now are to call a tie or run the final tomorrow, one day longer than the event is scheduled.