Australian surfer and three-time world champion Mick Fanning escaped after fighting off a shark attack during a competition in South Africa. Fanning left the water with competitor Julian Wilson unharmed but shaken.
The World Surf League cancelled the competition, the J-Bay Open, in Jeffreys Bay after the attack, New York Times reports. The league said in a statement that the two finalists agreed to split the money and receive points for second place finishes.
The final round of the competition, the sixth stop on the Samsung Galaxy World Surf League Championship Tour, had just begun when Fanning was knocked off of his board and landed in open water. Fanning told Fox Sports that he was just sitting on his board when he “felt something get stuck” in his leg rope and saw fins.
“I was waiting for teeth,” Fanning said. He was able to punch the shark in the back and scare it, BBC reports.
The event was being broadcast live when it happened. The broadcast showed Fanning holding his surfboard and swimming in the water when a shark’s fin appeared by his side. The next thing viewers saw was him disappear under the water, and they heard someone shouting “Get out of there now!” over the loud speaker.
Watch the video here.
The World Surf League stated that they were “incredibly grateful” no injuries occurred during the attack. They called Mick’s composure and quick response to the situation “nothing short of heroic and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable.”
In an interview with World Surf League, posted to Twitter, Fanning looked incredibly spooked. He said that nothing was wrong with him, but he was “just, like totally tripping out.” Wilson feared that Fanning would not make it out of the incident alive. He said that he remembered rescue boats were near and they “both started screaming.”
Fanning paid tribute to Wilson on Instagram Sunday. “So thankful to be able to have this hug with @julian_wilson this man came to my aid like a warrior!! It was by far the scariest thing I have ever been through and am still rattled,” the caption read.
He added that surfers are always thinking of sharks and are aware that they are “in their domain.” He thanked everyone who has “reached out” to him and the water rescue team as well.
Fanning’s mother, Elizabeth Osbourne, also thanked Wilson. “Thank you to your family and especially to Julian for being such a hero and caring about what was happening to my son,” Ms Osborne told Wilson’s mother during a live cross on the Nine Network.
Fanning is scheduled to appear at a press conference in the coming hours.