Where does one even start in a situation like this?
Everything has been said on the newsfeed, and everything has been covered in the interviews and the press releases. The shark in question has been identified as a Great White, a Thresher, a Juvenile Orca and even maybe a pair of sharks.
The only way to explain the situation in Jeffreys Bay is to try and explain that the emotions are running rife.
Mick was crying big tears, Fletch was crying even bigger. Julian broke down a few times. Kelly was cut up. Martin Potter was hugging. Pete Mel and Ross Williams blinked back tears on the webcast. Pete Mel, who hauled Julian onto the sled to safety, was blinking back the tears afterwards on the webcast. Pete is not the sort of guy who is going to blink back many tears. I caught up with him as he was walking down the point, minutes after his jetski had deposited him safely onto the sand.
“I was down at the bottom, doing my reportage for the WSL as I do whilst in the water,” said Pete. “It happened so quickly. We saw the splashing, and the shouting started, and we just started moving in.”
Fanning was waiting for a wave, after Julian had opened up the final, when the shark came for him. It came fast, snagged onto his leash, and started thrashing around, in full view of a packed beach and in full Hi-Def in front of webcast viewers worldwide.
“We lost him for a second,” said Pete, “and then we were in the zone. Julian had immediately started paddling towards Mick, who had lost his board and started swimming. Julian was heroic. He didn’t even think and started going straight for Mick”
“I was swimming away,’ said Mick, then I realized that it might come for me so I turned around to face it if it came again.”
The water patrol was in the zone in about 10 seconds, impressing all. Mick and Julian were on the sleds and safe. The world stood in shock. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach and had a deep, long lost craving for a cigarette.
In many, many years of contest reporting and spectating, supporting and cheering on our wonderful sport, this was pretty much the gnarliest thing that I had ever seen in a surf contest.
What it means to professional surfing and what it means to the J-Bay Open is yet to unfold, but right now everyone is just very, very happy that no one was hurt. It was a miracle, and it was the heaviest, most unbelievable scene.
There were a wash of 'What If’s' doing the rounds. What if a water photographer was swimming? What if Mick’s Mum was watching and he got bitten? What if we witnessed a man getting eaten, live on the webcast? The thing is What If’s don’t actually exist. They are these ideas that only gain a little bit of traction for a little while, until reality kicks back in and everyone realises that all we do is live in the Now. In the Now, our man Mick was unscathed. Tripping out, crying, laughing, sobbing, hugging, embracing and crying some more, but he was alive, and for that we should all be truly thankful.
The decision was made to call the event off immediately, and a little bit later Commissioner Kieren Perrow announced the event was over and that both finalists were to receive second place points and prizes. Not that it mattered too much. “I don’t care if I never surf another heat ever again,” said Mick, not even half joking. Jeffreys Bay DA Councilor Brenton Williams, who was on the beach at the time, announced that the beaches would be closed for 24 hours.
Thirty minutes later there were a bunch of insignificant surfers out at Supers, trying to make name, desperately crying out for their 15 minutes of fame. No one even cared, and looked on in disdain.
In the background a very happy Mick Fanning and an unidentified shark were busy breaking the Internet.