Few people can be unaware of the terrifying and extraordinary events that took place at the WSL surf competition at J-Bay on Sunday during the final round when three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning was attacked by a 12-ft great white shark.
Firstly it is a huge relief that he was not hurt in the attack and one can only think that his "at home-ness" in the water helped him to react in the way he did and act to repel the shark. Secondly, the response of Fanning's fellow-finalist Julian Wilson was admirable in paddling as fast as he could to where the attack took place in order to be as much help as he culd in fending off the shark. Wilson said later "I started paddling as hard as I could to get to him, figuring I had my board and I could stab the shark or use it as some kind of a weapon.”
Thirdly, the immediate response of the WSL Water Safety Team in arriving in numbers to collect Fanning from the water - by this time he had been separated from his surf board when the shark bit through his leash - and populate the area to discourage the shark from returning was commendable.
Everyone who goes in the sea or the ocean, whether to surf, swim, or generally enjoy the natural world will have felt the fear at one time or another of such an attack, and surfers are more at risk than other ocean users due to the amount of time spent in the water. The sight of this close encounter will not serve to reassure anyone but one has to keep in mind that in reality, shark attacks, even on those who spend as much time in the water as surfers do, are extremely rare.
We wish Fanning well and hope that he will not be overly-traumatised by the event and will continue his assault on a fourth title. Also that he will still be riding the waves when he becomes eligible for membership of SGSC. Meanwhile, how will we at SGSC feel tomorrow entering the water for the first time since this story broke?!