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One Year Later, Mick Fanning Is Returning to the Scene of His Infamous Shark Encounter

The Australian World Champion has too many good memories and too much unfinished business to not compete in next week's J-Bay Open.
Mick Fanning embraces Kelly Slater moments after the incident. Photo via WSL / Kirstin SCholtz

Fanning's 2015 brush with a great white shark was no fucking joke.

On July 19, 2015, Mick Fanning was attacked by a great white shark in a final at the J-Bay Open in South Africa—an event held annually by the World Surf League. Some say it was an "encounter", that the shark simply tangled itself in Mick's leg rope while others deemed it a deliberate attack. But whatever happened out there it was a terrifying moment for Mick, his friends, his family, and really, for anyone watching the event.


In the months that followed, conjecture swirled as to whether or not the WSL should or would return to Jeffrey's Bay and its booming shark population. When the WSL did finally announce that the event was going to go ahead in 2016, the question became this: will Mick go?

His answer? An emphatic yes.

When Mick announced that he was going to take some time off from competition to "re-set", he also said he planned on a return to J-Bay.

Having had many good memories there over the years (he's actually won the event three times) Mick told reporters that "to leave on that last point, it doesn't feel right."

"It's also overcoming something in my head, that I really want to overcome," he said.

Since that first announcement in February, the WSL has been somewhat unrelenting in its coverage of his return—the initial announcement, a follow-up interview "re-announcing" his return, and this week, yet another interview.

Don't get us wrong—it is a big deal. It's a huge deal. Can you fathom what it would be like, paddling out into competition where you once came face-to-face with death? But just maybe, cut the guy a break and go easy on the shark-talk until he's back out of the water?

Anyways, in a video interview, Mick tells the WSL "It's just one of those things where it is the ocean and, ultimately, there is not a lot anyone can do. You've got to think positively and hope nothing happens. Obviously the first surf is going to be a little bit tricky, just getting through my head. But I've surfed lots of different places and have seen sharks since then and haven't been too concerned. But it didn't bring back any flashbacks or anything mental – it's just, that happened, let's move on with it."

Nice one Mick.

In reaction to the incident last year, the WSL has enhanced its shark surveillance and put additional water patrol in the lineup, as well as implemented new sonar technologies like the Clever Buoy system.

The waiting period for the JBay Open runs from July 6 – 17.