Shark survivor surfer hails 'warrior' mate who came to rescue
SYDNEY, Australia – Australian surf champion Mick Fanning has paid tribute to "warrior" mate Julian Wilson for rushing to help as a shark attacked him, while signalling he wants to eventually return to the waves.
The 34-year-old 3-time world champion fought off a shark during the final heat of a world tour event at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa's Eastern Cape province on Sunday in dramatic vision beamed live around the world.
He survived unscathed, with his rival and close friend Wilson, also from Australia, furiously paddling towards him to help, despite the danger posed by the shark, believed to be a great white.
"This man came to my aid like a warrior!!" Fanning said of Wilson in an Instagram post after social media went into meltdown over the dramatic close call, with a YouTube click of the attack getting more than 11 million views.
"It was by far the scariest thing I have ever been through and am still rattled," he added.
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. In our sport we always think about sharks and know we are in their domain. Many thanks to all the people that have reached out and sent their wishes. Jbay is an incredible place and I will go back one day. Thanks to the @wsl announcers and water patrol for being on top of us and the care they showed us and to all my friends on tour that were by my side. Love you all.
Reports in Australia said Queensland state was considering a bravery award for Wilson, whose courageous actions were lauded online.
Speculation has been rife that Fanning may call it quits after hinting that he would not compete again in the moments after his ordeal.
But he said on Instagram that: "Jbay is an incredible place and I will go back one day," referring to Jeffreys Bay.
He added in an interview with redbull.com that: "Mentally I'm a bloody mess, but I'll come good in time."
"I'm just going to get home and get my head together." Fanning was due back in Australia later Tuesday.
His manager, Ronnie Blakey, told Australia's Triple M radio he believed Fanning would still compete in the next leg of the World Surf League Tour in Tahiti next month.
"He is in a fantastic position to have a run at his fourth world title... I think Mick will regroup," he said.
The World Surf League, which organized the J-Bay Open, said the surfing world was still in shock and while the rescue teams did a great job, the situation could have been much worse.
"Certainly it will give us an opportunity to sit down and re-evaluate more the safety side of what we do," commissioner Kieren Perrow told Australian Associated Press.
Perrow said authorities would look to employ new and improving technologies to deter sharks.
Perrow added that the South African stop was not the only location with a reputation for sharks.
"Being able to have a solution that not just works here (in South Africa) but everywhere would be pretty incredible," he said.
"We'll spend some time doing that and then review what it means for the future." – Rappler.com