Australian surfing legend Mick Fanning has arrived in Sydney after surviving a shark attack while surfing at the J-Bay Open World Surf League event in South Africa.
Dramatic footage was beamed around the world, as a shark fin emerged from the water right behind an unsuspecting Fanning, who was competing in the final at Jeffreys Bay against fellow Aussie Julian Wilson.
Vision showed the shark thrashing around Fanning, who punched the shark in the back as it broke his leg rope.
Speaking immediately after the incident, competing for the world title was the least of Fanning’s worries.
“I’m happy to not even compete ever again. Seriously, to walk away from that, I’m just so stoked,” he said.
Whilst his board may need a refurbishment, the 34-year old returned to shore without a scratch on him, leading him to label it as nothing short of a “miracle”.
After touching down in Sydney, Fanning and Wilson were greeted by massive cheering crowds, before facing the media. Walking in to the press conference, the two were given a large round of applause by the media contingent.
Fanning says the incident will leave him dealing with mental trauma for some time, but has vowed to get back in the water – and he hasn’t ruled out a return to J-Bay.
“It will probably take — I don’t know — a couple of weeks, months … I don’t know how long it’s going to take. But I’m just lucky I’ve got really good people around me and great friends to just pick me up.”
“I will return,” said a reflective Fanning. “J Bay is such a beautiful spot. I’m sad it happened there, because it is the top three favourite places for me on Earth.
“I have so many friends there. I have to go back. It will be hard. But you have to face these things front on. In the end, I have to deal with it when I come to it. But how many people have surfed on J Bay and nothing has happened?”
Fanning has also backed calls to award Wilson a bravery award, as the competitor rushed to his hero’s aid, labelling him a “warrior”.
Wilson told the media that he went “straight in to panic mode” when he saw Fanning get thrashed around by the shark.
“A big old fish popped up behind him that was a lot bigger than him, and I froze, I honestly froze.”
“I didn’t know until he got on the boat that all limbs were in tact.”
The shark is suspected to have been a Great White, given their prominence in the area, east of Port Elizabeth.
(PHOTOS: World Surf League)