An Irish Australian champion surfer was approached by a great white shark during a competition in Durban, South Africa, knocking him off his board. The experienced sportsman was shaken by the encounter but said he began to kick in the direction of the predator and got away.
Mick Fanning was competing in the J-Bay Open final when it’s believed that the great white shark approached him more out of curiosity than aggression. Fanning (34) was paddling out to ride his first wave when the shark surfaced next to him, knocking him off his board.
“I was just sitting there and I felt something just get stuck in my leg rope, and I was kicking trying to get it away,” told Fox Sports.
“I punched him in the back.”
“I instantly just jumped away. It kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth.”
The three-time world champion, ironically nicknamed “White Lightning,” was picked up by a support craft and headed to the shore. The dramatic encounter led to the cancellation of the final.
Speaking after the incident Fanning said he would be “happy to not even compete ever again.”
He said, “I just want to let all my family and friends know I'm OK. I'm just tripping out.”
Fanning added, “I felt like [the shark] kicked me off. It was dragging me. I felt like it was just dragging me underwater."
Elizabeth Osborne, Fanning’s mother, was watching the live TV coverage when the encounter took place. She told NBC News' Australian partner Channel 7 “time stood still.”
"I just couldn't believe what I was seeing…I saw this big fin, and Mick scrambling and turning around," she said.
"And then he went down and I realized then it must be a shark attack. I was absolutely terrified, I thought we'd lost him."