Amazing escape as surfer fights off shark attack
Australian surf champion Mick Fanning’s shocked mother feared she had lost another son after he was attacked by a huge shark in South Africa.
The 34-year-old was competing in the final heat of a world tour event at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province on Sunday when a looming black fin appeared behind him.
In a churn of water and spray, Fanning, a triple world champion, was knocked off his board as he battled to fend off the animal in images being shown live.
“It came up and got stuck in my leg rope,” he said in a television interview after miraculously escaping unscathed.
“I was kicking and screaming. I just saw a fin. I didn’t see teeth. I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back.”
The shark has been estimated to be three metres-long.
His terrified mother was watching the drama unfold on television in Australia, and feared the worst.
“I was so scared. I just thought when that wave came through that he’d gone,” mum Elizabeth Osborne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, adding that she went over to the TV “almost as though I could pull him out ... to save him”.
Fanning lost his brother in a car crash almost 17 years ago and his mother said it brought back the memories.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen to any of my family because it was just there in front of me,” she said of the shark attack while fighting back tears.
“When Sean was killed in the car accident, I didn’t see it. I saw this just in front of me. It was just terrible.”
Fanning was pulled from the water by a nearby rescue jet-ski that rushed to his aid.
The World Surf League (WSL), which organised the J-Bay Open, said two sharks were spotted in the water near Fanning and his rival – and close friend – Julian Wilson, also from Australia.
Despite the danger posed by the shark, Wilson furiously paddled towards Fanning to help and was hailed in Australia Monday for his courageous actions.
His mother Nola, also watching on television, told reporters: “I don’t know if he’s crazy or a hero.”
CAUTION: Some strong language in the video.