Irish-Australian surfer Fanning beats off shark attack

Shark knocked 34-year-old off his board in World Surfing League final

Australian surfer Mick Fanning escapes unhurt after fighting off a shark before he was due to compete in the final of the World Surfing League's J-Bay Open. Video: Reuters


Irish-Australian surfer Mick Fanning survived a shark attack in Sunday’s final of the World Surfing League’s J-Bay Open, fighting off the circling predator with his fists.

Fanning, three-times world surfing champion, was paddling out to ride his first wave when the unidentified species of shark surfaced next to him, knocking the 34-year-old off his board.

The surfer managed to fight off the predator, hitting it on its back before it swam off, leaving him shaken as he waited for a support boat to return him safely to shore.

The incident, which was broadcast on live TV, led to the postponement of the final against compatriot Julian Wilson.

“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 punched him in the back.”

“I instantly just jumped away. It kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth.”

Irish heritage

The champion surfer is the son of John Fanning from Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Liz Osborne, from Birmingham in the UK, but whose father was from Castlebar, Co Mayo.

Born in Sydney, Fanning has celebrated his Irish heritage by having a yellow and white Fanning coat of arms tattooed on the inside of his left arm.

J-Bay Open organisers have not yet decided when the final will resume, though it will be Monday at the earliest.

South Africa’s waters are among the most shark-infested in the world. A swimmer was killed by a Great White shark at Albatross Point close to Jeffrey’s Bay in 2013.