Triple world champion Mick Fanning was two-minutes into the J-Bay Open Finals when he felt something tugging on his leg rope, alerting him to dangers lurking right beside him.
The surfing competition was being aired live on television, capturing the harrowing moment the fins of two great white sharks emerge from the water right next to the surfer.
Escalating cries of alarm can be heard from the crowd of spectators standing in horror on the beach as Fanning’s dire situation becomes clear. The announcer yells “Get him out out of there!” as violent splashing is seen enveloping the panicked surfer.
Footage from the World Surf League shows the moment Fanning’s fight-or-flight response kicks in; the professional australian surfer manages to kick his legs out and punch one of the sharks in the abdomen before swimming to a jet ski, with fellow competitor Julian Wilson, also in the water at the time of the attack, also being rescued by jet ski.
Cheers erupt from the crowd as the jet skis pull the surfers to the safety of the shore, putting an end to the dangerous run-in as well as the competition.
Mick Fanning recounted the incident to Fox Sports and spoke about his fear upon realizing the severity of the situation: “I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth.”
The World Surf League the following statement after the incident:
“We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today. Mick’s composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable — they are truly world class at what they do.
“The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both Finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open. We appreciate the ongoing support we have in South Africa and once again want to express our gratitude to the Water Safety Team.”