Champ ‘owes it to surfing’ after shark drama
AUSTRALIAN surf champion Mick Fanning vowed yesterday to return to the waves after a miracle escape from a shark attack, as he paid tribute to courageous mate Julian Wilson for rushing to help.
Fanning, 34, a three-time world champion, fought off a large shark during the final heat of the world tour event at Jeffreys Bay on Sunday, with the dramatic scenes beamed live around the world.
He survived unscathed, with rival and close friend Wilson, also from Australia, furiously paddling towards him to help despite the danger posed by the shark.
“I guess someone was looking out for me. To walk away from a shark attack with not a scratch on you, it’s a miracle really,” Fanning said after arriving back in Sydney with Wilson, where they were met by a large media scrum.
“You just count your lucky stars and if there is someone up there looking after us – thanks.”
Speculation has been rife that Fanning might call it quits after indicating, in the moments after his ordeal, that he might not compete again. He admitted yesterday that he was now dealing with “an emotional mental sort of trauma” that would probably take weeks, if not months, to get over.
But he vowed to get back on his board again.
“Surfing has given me and my family so much. It’s got me through the hardest times in my life,” he said.
“So to turn my back on surfing, it just wouldn’t feel right.”
He is even prepared to get back in the waves at Jeffreys Bay.
“For sure,” he said, when asked whether he would compete there again next year.
Social media went into a frenzy over the dramatic close call, with a YouTube clip of the attack being viewed almost 13.5 million times.
Even Hollywood star Russell Crowe commented on Twitter: “My heart was racing just watching.”
Fanning used social media to pay tribute to Wilson, who paddled towards him in actions that have earned an Australian state government nomination for a bravery award.
“This man came to my aid like a warrior!!,” Fanning said of Wilson in an Instagram post before arriving back in Australia.
Despite the attention, Wilson played down his heroics, calling Fanning “a great role model”.
“As soon as I realised the danger and what was going on, I couldn’t get there quick enough,” he said in Sydney.
He said Fanning’s confronting the shark had spurred him on.
“It could be the thing that gave me the courage to just head for him. You know, to see that he just turned on something that was so much bigger than him.”
And while both men were clearly shaken, they found time for some humour.
Asked whether he had a message for the shark, Fanning said: “Thanks for not eating me.”
The World Surf League, which organised the J-Bay Open, commended the rescue teams who quickly came to Fanning’s aid and said the situation could have been much worse.
“Certainly it will give us an opportunity to sit down and re-evaluate more the safety side of what we do,” commissioner Kieren Perrow said.