In sport we a rare constantly bombarded with superlatives, but surfer Mick Fanning’s encounter with a shark surpassed any superlative that any commentator or reporter could muster.
Credit should be given to the organisers of the J-Bay Open World Surf League event in South Africa who quickly swept into action. Credit should also go to Sunshine Coast-based Julian Wilson who was competing against Fanning in the final and who was on the water at the time of the attack. He bravely put his own safety aside and paddled towards Fanning and the shark, hoping to help fight it off.
Former World Champion Fanning’s comment once ashore was understandable, “I just saw fin — I didn’t see the teeth, I was waiting for some teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back … I’m happy to not even compete ever again. Seriously, to walk away from that, I’m just so stoked.”
Some would say so too was the quote from his manager Ronnie Blakey when speaking to radio station Triple M. “Mick will regroup. He’s got another month until his wave in Tahiti. I think Mick will pull it together.”
Was this insensitive? Was this a manager looking to ensure that one of his own revenue streams is not lost? It seems a little callous, but ultimately it is for Fanning to address.
Not surprisingly there have been some who have suggested that World Surfing events should now only happen where Shark Nets have been installed; yet as we know in Western Australia, shark nets kill more than just sharks.
Mick Fanning maybe summed up this debate best when he thanks people for his support on instagram. He wrote, “”In our sport we always think about sharks and know we are in their domain. Many thanks to all the people that have reached out and sent their wishes. Jbay is an incredible place and I will go back one day.”
This was a truly remarkable event and Mick Fanning is to be credited with the way he has handled himself and so too his fellow competitors and the event organisers.