Mick Fanning, a pro surfer, fought off a shark attack mid-competition on Sunday during the finals of the J-Bay Open in South Africa.

Mick Fanning Attacked By Shark Mid-Competition

Fanning, 34, an Australian surfer and world champion, was in the final heat of the J-Bay Open, organized by the 2015 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League Champions Tour when the attack occurred. Fanning was sitting on his board, patiently awaiting a wave, when suddenly a large shark fin popped out of the water. The two clearly struggled, and both disappeared underwater for a few seconds. When he emerged, Fanning called for Water Safety and was safely removed from the water.

Fanning escaped unharmed, and the competition was immediately put on hold. Fanning was clearly shaken by the encounter, showing his severed foot leash – chomped clean from his board by the shark, believed to have been a young great white.

“I had this feeling that something was behind [me], and all of a sudden I felt like I started getting pulled underwater. And then the thing came up and I was on my board and it was right there,” he told reporters after he was safe out of the water.

Fanning said he didn’t see the shark’s teeth, but did manage to “punch it in the back” and scare it off. “I had this thought, ‘What if it comes around for another go at me?’ Before I knew it, the boat was there.… I can’t believe it, I was tripping out. I’m totally tripping out,” he added.

Fanning was in the water with his final competitor, Julian Wilson, who is also his mentee. Wilson and Fanning both took a break from the competition after the attack and decided, along with WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow, to split the prize money and take equal, second place points. Fanning now ranks as second in the men’s Championship Tour, with Wilson at third – first place belongs to Adriano de Souza.

“We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today. Mick’s composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable – they are truly world class at what they do. The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both Finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of the competition. We appreciate the ongoing support we have in South Africa and once again want to express our gratitude to the Water Safety Team,” said WSL CEO Paul Speaker in a statement.

Mick Fanning Calls Julian Wilson A “Warrior”

After the incident, Fanning took to Instagram to thank Wilson for trying to help him, calling him a “warrior” and sharing a photo of the two sharing a hug. “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,” Fanning wrote. In the same post, Fanning thanked the WSL team for retrieving him safely and thanked his friends for their support.

A photo posted by Mick Fanning (@mfanno) on

Despite Fanning’s frantic warnings for Wilson to get back to shore, Wilson instead paddled out towards Fanning, and was overcome with emotion after the two were returned safely to shore.

“I felt like I couldn’t get there in time. I was thinking that by the time I got there I would be swimming down to find him. It was such a horrific feeling,” Wilson told reporters at a press conference.

Wilson also shared some love for Fanning on his own Instagram page, writing, “Today was one of those days you hope you’ll never experience in life and to see you stand your ground and fend off that monster. You’re my hero mate. So happy I could give you a hug on the boat with all limbs in tact. You’re the true definition of living by the sword.”

It’s unclear whether or not Fanning will continue on with the tour and get back into the water. At the press conference, he admitted that there was some “emotional and mental trauma” and said he wasn’t sure how long it would take for him to get back to normal. “I’ve got good people around me,” he added.

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