Mick Fanning sat up on a high stool, straight backed and good humored, recounting the story he will be telling for the rest of his days, about how he fought off a shark with his bare hands during a surfing competition in South Africa.

It sounds like the plot of a movie, but this three-time world champion is no fictional Crocodile Dundee-style Aussie. He’s the real thing: his shark-wrestling exploits were broadcast live.

The 34-year-old Fanning arrived back in Australia on Tuesday and appeared at a news conference in Sydney before heading home to the Gold Coast, the burgeoning city surrounding Surfers Paradise beach.

“It was so close. I’m doing OK, though,” he said. “I haven’t got a scratch on me. Just more of an emotional, mental sort of trauma right now.

“To walk away from a shark attack with not a scratch on you – it is a miracle really.”

Fanning was competing against fellow Aussie Julian Wilson in the final of the JBay Open, the World Surf League event at Jeffreys Bay on South Africa’s east coast, when he was bumped off his board by a shark.

In video of the event posted on the World Surf League website, Fanning could be seen scanning the water before a big fin emerged behind him. He turned to deal with the shark, and then lost his board as a wave rolled in and he disappeared from view.

Wilson was paddling toward Fanning and later said that he believed if he could get there with his board, he’d at least have a weapon to distract the shark, which he estimated was at least twice the size of his mate and childhood hero.

Fanning said at first he tried to swim away but then decided to defend himself, and turned to punch the shark in the back. He was next seen furiously swimming toward a personal watercraft, where he was helped out of the water and back to shore.

“I thought, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ Like anything, you want to go down fighting,” he said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.