Surfing’s wildest moment and the media circus that followed.
Just as we settled in to watch the final heat of a fairly forgettable event thus far, J-bay turned the world of competitive surfing upside down and left us all slack-jawed and bewildered. The WSL’s slogan for the event, Into the Open, seems more fitting than ever right now. The competitors, in the open seas of the Southern Ocean yesterday, were absolutely at the mercy of the wild.
It was a day of narrow escapes for Mick Fanning and for pro surfing itself. But we now have the biggest story in surfing history to date, and two heroes to hang our hopes on: a new Chuck Norris of sorts in Fanning the shark puncher, and a brother in arms in our big-hearted Jules.
Because we are dealing with a happy ending here, there is always room to make light of the situation. Many a meme is making its way around the Internet. One in particular shows a shark front-on, accompanied by the text: Tried to get Mick Fanning’s autograph. Got punched in the back. The mainstream media outlets, as can only be expected, are focusing on the emotional element: Mick’s mum, who’s already lost one son, watches her youngest go under on live TV. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than that.
Suggestions of a little help from beyond the physical world have begun circulating too. Speaking of Fanning’s late brother, The Guardian pulled this quote from his autobiography, Surf For Your Life: “A lot of the time I feel like he’s with me when I travel and compete.” If there has been a time that Fanning’s needed a bit otherworldly safeguarding, it was this one.
Watching our top male athletes breakdown post-attack has only endeared them to us all the more. Everyone loves a man who’s in touch with his emotions. While the future of the J-bay Open hangs in the air, surfing just juggernauted into the homes of the mainstream watching public and who knows, it might be there to stay. This is live action like never before.
A handful of surfers entered the line-up after the event had been called off, thereby starting the slow but inevitable journey back into the water, back into the open. Where we all know we’ll end up, one way or another.