As we all still wrap our heads around the terrifying shark attack that happened this Sunday afternoon in the final at the J-Bay Open, I would like to point out that the best surfing of the entire competition went down for a full six hours in near perfect conditions at the Bay before the attack on Mick Fanning’s life took place.
Once the adrenaline wears off, the day will live on not only for Fanning’s close call, but for the high level of surfing that took place and the last-minute swell that made it all possible. Fanning and Julian Wilson will forever debate over who would of won that final heat, and once it begins to show in the rankings the conversation will continue to develop the rest of the season, because let’s face it it’s still competitive surfing.
So here’s a recap on everything that happened prior to the big scare:
All three World Champion’s from the Round 4 superheat ended up taking each other out like dominoes on the final day. After Kelly Slater and Fanning breezed through Round 5, Slater and Gabriel Medina found themselves matched up again in the Quarters.
Medina opened with an 8.43, but Slater answered back with a 9.00 and then a 9.10 in the first half of the heat. Left searching for a huge score, Medina tried his best posting an 8.80 before being knocked out by the 11-time World Champion.
Fanning faced Wildcard Alejo Muniz, who was on a hot streak up until then, in the Quarters. Muniz seemed to had lost his rhythm and Fanning left him still in a combo situation when the horn sounded, posting a 9.57 along the way.
Fanning continued his dominance straight into his Semifinal heat with Slater, posting two 8-point rides within the first five minutes.
Slater had another 9-point ride left in him and was able to break the combo situation Fanning put him in early, earning a 9.43. Needing only a 7.30 to come back, Slater made a valiant effort posting a 6.83. Fanning eventually shut him down though, earning a 9.63 in the last three minutes, throwing spray to the moon on a set that was at least a few feet overhead.
Medina may have won the three-man battle, but Fanning won the war as he headed into the final against Julian Wilson.
Slater’s Semifinal finish was enough to move him into sixth place in the Championship Tour Rankings. Medina also moved up five spots into 15th as he tries to defend his title and recover from a poor first half of the year. I’d expect both to be carrying this confidence into Tahiti, maybe duking it out in the Quarters again.
Adrian Buchan was the last goofy footer standing, letting Wilson get the best of him in their Semifinal heat.
Both he and Kai Otton earned dire points toward their efforts to stay on the Championship Tour, each finding themselves within the top 22 at the end of the day.
With Fanning and Wilson both taking an equal second place finish, each moved up two spots, nipping at the heels of Adriano de Souza who lost to Wilson in the Quarters, but will keep the yellow jersey going into the next event in Tahiti.
The rookie Keanu Asing also earned one of his best finishes so far this year and put himself in a position to requalify after being Fanning’s first victim of the day.
The final match up could have gone either way with Wilson posting a 6.67 right out of the gate, and Fanning just mowing through the rest of the competition like he did, but all that matters is Fanning is safe and able to surf another day, although he probably won’t be surfing J-Bay until next year’s event; that is if the WSL doesn’t take it off the schedule because of this incident.
Fanning and Wilson became everybody’s hero today as we watched one wrestle a great white shark as the other one swam straight into harm’s way thinking only of his friend’s safety.
“[I’d be] happy to not ever compete again, to walk away from that I’m just so stoked,” a choked up Fanning said in an interview with Joe Turpel.
Wilson also found himself in tears telling Turpel, “I saw him get knocked off his board…I thought he was gone, it felt like I couldn’t get there quick enough.”
An emotional day tested many factors including camaraderie, safety protocol and sheer courage; not one failed.
Below is the official statement released by the WSL about the attack:
“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.