Mick Fanning caught up in fresh shark scare on surfing return

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
A shark sighting halted competition during Mick Fanning's surfing comeback in Narrabeen. Pic: Getty
A shark sighting halted competition during Mick Fanning's surfing comeback in Narrabeen. Pic: Getty

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.

Three-time world champion Fanning famously survived a shark attack in competition in South Africa in 2015.

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The Aussie surfer made global headlines when he fended off a great white shark during the final of the World Surf League's J-Bay Open against compatriot Julian Wilson.

The incredible vision of Fanning's terrifying close call went viral and the surfer's extraordinary tale became the stuff of legend.

"I was just sitting there and I felt something just get stuck in my leg rope, and I was kicking trying to get it away," Fanning said after the infamous incident. 

"I punched him in the back" I instantly just jumped away. It kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth," he added.

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The incident led to the cancellation of the contest but incredibly, Fanning returned the following year to win the Jeffreys Bay event.

Fanning collected world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2013 before announcing his retirement from the sport in 2018, after which time he became a father for the first time.

However, the Aussie made waves recently after announcing that he was coming out of retirement to compete in the World Surf League leg in Narrabeen as a wildcard.

Remarkably though, Fanning's one-off comeback came as fellow surfers were pulled from the water after a shark was spotted at the famous break on Sydney's northern beaches.

Fortunately for Fanning, he was safely back on the beach after advancing from his elimination heat when the 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.

Making a one-off return to the tour, Fanning advanced from his three-man heat along with French veteran Jeremy Flores at the expense of Australian Connor O'Leary.

Mick Fanning famously survived a great white shark attack in South Africa in 2015. Pic: Getty/WSL
Mick Fanning famously survived a great white shark attack in South Africa in 2015. Pic: Getty/WSL

Fanning working back into competition

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.

"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.

with AAP

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