Surfer survived shark assault by punching beast – then acquired again in water

A surfer who came face to face with a shark and was pulled underwater in a terrifying ordeal managed to fend it off with a series of punches.

World champion Mick Fanning suffered the longest nine seconds of his life when a three-metre-long shark held him under while competing at Jeffreys in South Africa.

The 42-year-old was attacked on live TV and remarkably managed to escape with his life. The Aussie has often recalled how he can still “hear the splashes” and has “flashbacks” of what happened but feels extremely lucky to be alive.

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Incredibly, Fanning’s brush with death didn’t put him off surfing and just one week after the attack, suspected to have been by a great white shark, he was already back at sea.

World champion surfer Mike Fanning's encounter with a shark
The shark bit through his leash

Fanning punched the shark and tried to wedge his board between the shark and his body as the shark attack unravelled. The shark eventually bit off Fanning’s leash, allowing him to flee back to shore.

A response team then scared the shark away and both Fanning and fellow competitor Julian Wilson, who was also in the water nearby, escaped unharmed and were given a shared victory with the event cancelled.

Years later Fanning even agreed to come face-to-face with sharks for a National Geographic documentary Save This Shark where he went cage diving and has not shied away from talking about his experiences since.

World champion surfer Mike Fanning's encounter with a shark
Just a week later he was back in the sea

Speaking of the ordeal, he told 60 Minutes in 2018: “The shark just came. My board was sideways and the shark just came like that. It was, like, right there.

“The main dorsal fin was right there, and I could see the side fin and I could see where it goes from grey to white. That was when I was, like, ‘oh yeah, this is… this is really, really bad’.”

In an interview with 7NEWS in 2020 he said surfers always have sharks “in the back of your mind”, but “you never think it’s going to happen to you.

World champion surfer Mike Fanning's encounter with a shark
The shocking ordeal was caught on camera

A clip of the attack shows how a calm Fanning is sitting on his board when a moment later a huge fin appears out of nowhere and the shark takes him down.

“I consider myself extremely lucky. I still have flashbacks of coming up [for air] and I hear the splashes,” he recalls. Of his decision to participate in the documentary, he said: “I didn’t know how I’d react once I saw the shark … but I needed to heal myself and see if I’ve gotten over the nightmares I’ve had.

“The anxiety and nerves come back up and I personally didn’t know how it was going to go, but they’re such incredible creatures.”

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