Shark attack forces cancellation of surfing event in South Africa

JEFFREYS BAY, South Africa – A shaken Mick Fanning has said he’d be happy to never compete again after being attacked by a shark at the J-Bay Open surf competition in South Africa.

The World Surf League (WSL) event at Jeffreys Bay has been cancelled following the incident on Sunday.

Fanning was up against fellow Australian Julian Wilson in the final of the world surf league event at Jeffreys Bay when he was forced to fight off the great white.

The 34-year-old escaped without a scratch, but dramatic footage shows just how close the incident could have been to a tragedy.

Video shows the shark’s fin approaching Fanning, then the surfer being knocked from his board.

“I was about to start paddling again and I had this instinct that someone was behind me,” Fanning said.

“I saw the whole thing just thrashing around … I punched it a couple of times, but I felt like it was dragging me under water.

“Then all of a sudden my leg rope broke and I was swimming and screaming.”

Water patrol crews sped towards Fanning as he frantically swam for the shore.

“I was swimming in and I had this thought “what if comes for another go at me”, so I turned around, so I could at least see it, and before I knew it the boat was there, the jetskis were there. I just can’t believe it.

Fanning is locked in a world title battle with Wilson, but competition was clearly the bottom of his priorities following the incident.

“I’m happy to not even compete ever again. Seriously, to walk away from that, I’m just so stoked.”

Wilson was also emotional following the attack, saying through tears that he felt like he couldn’t get to Fanning quick enough.

“It came up and he was wrestling it, and I saw he got knocked off his board,” Wilson said.

I was like ‘I’ve got a board, if I can get there I can stab it or whatever, I’ve got a weapon’.”

The WSL announced shortly after the incident that the competition would not continue.

“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,” a statement read.

Commissioner Kieren Perrow said he wasn’t aware of any previous professional surf competitions in which a competitor had being attacked.

“It’s something that I don’t think we’ll ever see again, hopefully, in this sport,” Perrow said.

“We’re just so happy to see (Fanning) still safe and alive. That could have been a really terrible outcome.”

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