BBC News

Surfer Mick Fanning escapes shark attack in South Africa

media captionSurfer Mick Fanning: "I punched the shark in the back"

An Australian surfer has made an incredible escape after encountering two sharks during a major competition in South Africa.

Mick Fanning was competing in Jeffreys Bay, on the eastern Cape, when one of the sharks approached his surfboard.

The final of the J-Bay Open had only just started when Fanning was knocked off his surfboard and into the sea.

Fanning, the defending champion, escaped injury. The tournament was called off soon afterwards.

"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," Fanning told Fox Sports.

"I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth."

Fanning, a three-time world champion, said he was able to "get a punch into its back" and startle it.

image copyrightEPA
image captionMick Fanning pictured earlier this week surfing in Jeffreys Bay - with no sharks sighted
image copyrightWorld Surf League
image captionWilson and Fanning were taken to safety on jet-skis

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The event was being broadcast live on television. Footage later cut to Fanning and co-competitor Julian Wilson, also of Australia, on a rescue boat reliving the incident.

The relieved-looking pair then received loud applause from a crowd on the beach.

"I was swimming in and I had this thought what if it 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 jet-skis were there, the jet-skis were there. I just can't believe it," he told journalists who were at the competition.

Mother's horror

Fanning's mother said she was terrified when she saw the live footage.

Speaking from her home on Australia's Gold Coast, Liz Osborne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp it was "the worst thing I've ever seen happen to any of my family because it was just there in front of me".

Her son Sean was killed in the car accident in 1998 but the family were not with him at the time.

"I saw this just in front of me. It was just terrible," Ms Osborne said. "I was so scared. I just thought when that wave came through that he'd gone," she said.

The World Surf League (WSL), which organises the competition, said Fanning was approached by two sharks, and that he and Wilson were both rescued from the water by jet-skis.

A video of the incident can be seen on the WSL's website here and the aftermath of the attack can be viewed here.

Reuters says the waters are some of the most shark-infested in the world, and that a surfer was killed by a Great White shark close to Jeffreys Bay in 2013.

Related Topics

  • Surfing
  • Australia
  • South Africa
  • Sharks