Mick Fanning narrowly avoids coming face-to-face with a shark during a competition on Sydney’s northern beaches six years after punching a great white while on tour
- Mick Fanning’s return to surfing coincided with a shark scare at Narrabeen
- He had just competed in his World Surfing League heat when shark was spotted
- Surfers were pulled from the water and competition delayed by the sighting
- Fanning survived a shark attack in competition in South Africa in 2015
Mick Fanning’s return to the World Surf League has coincided with a shark sighting which temporarily halted competition at Sydney’s Narrabeen Beach on Sunday.
Fanning, who famously survived a shark attack in competition in South Africa in 2015 by punching and kicking out at the great white, was safely back on the beach after advancing from his elimination heat when a shark was spotted.
Surfers competing in the second heat were pulled from the water and competition was delayed for 15 minutes until the shark made its way further down the coast.
Fanning collected three world titles, in 2007, 2009 and 2013, before surviving the shark attack while competing at Jeffreys Bay, which left him suffering from recurring nightmares.
Mick Fanning had just completed his World Surfing League heat on Sunday at Sydney’s Narrabeen Beach (pictured) when a shark was spotted in the water
Fanning was safely back on the beach when the sighting occurred but other surfers were pulled from the water and competition was delayed for 15 minutes
Fanning was participating in the World Surf League Championship Tour in July 2015 at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa when a great white shark attacked
In August last year, Fanning told The Australian he had post-traumatic stress disorder and ‘freaks’ out whenever somebody splashes behind him in the water as it was a reminder of the six-metre beast.
‘I mean, it’s like I’m in the actual position I was in, It’s a reality dream,’ he said.
‘You sort of learn your body can do so many things to make things real and not real and I just had to learn, “OK, that moment’s been done. It’s not real. These dreams are just coming back”.’
Fanning announced earlier this month he was coming out of retirement to compete as a wildcard in the third WSL leg, being held in Narrabeen, after he left the tour in 2018.
‘I’d been tossing up doing another event… last year I was looking at doing J Bay, then the pandemic hit and then this year it would have been 20 years at Bells and it got cancelled,’ the 39-year-old said.
‘It’s like “it’s now or never, I’m not getting any younger” so why not.’
Fanning advanced from his three-man heat along with French veteran Jeremy Flores at the expense of Australian Connor O’Leary.
The heat never reached any great heights, with Flores picking up the best score with a 6.67 for a combined 10.84, and he edged Fanning’s two-best wave total of 10.27, with O’Leary starved of waves.
Fanning (pictured with partner Breeana Randall) revealed in August last year he suffers from recurring nightmares after being subject to an infamous shark attack during a competition
Fanning collected world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2013 before retiring from the sport in 2018. He announced his comeback earlier this month (pictured on Sunday)
‘The old boys – we’ve had some incredible heats over the years,’ Fanning said of Flores.
‘Every heat we’ve ever had has been so close; he’s a great guy and a great competitor and I love his passion for surfing. Unfortunate for Connor – he’s been absolutely ripping.’
After a slow opening heat on Saturday, Fanning said he felt like he was building into some form.
‘I felt like I finally warmed up a little bit and felt my feet and legs – we got the starter motor going,’ he said.
The interrupted second heat had plenty of action beside the shark sighting, with local wildcard Dylan Moffat proving a crowd favourite.
The 21-year-old and fellow Australian Jack Freestone were pitted alongside Italian Leonardo Fioravanti.
Moffat posted a score of 7.33 after an impressive aerial rotation, however Freestone topped it with an 8.17 for his lofty air with the pair advancing through to the next round.