See A Surfer Narrowly Survive A Shark Attack During Competition

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: November 11, 2022
© Xavier ELIAS Photography/
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The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay is a World Surf League event. Surfers from all over the world converge to compete in front of millions of spectators. Every year, the event takes place in Jeffreys Bay, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

On July 9, 2015, everything was continuing as normal. There is palpable excitement in the air as the competition takes place. Michael Eugene Fanning AO is a competitive surfer from Australia who won the World Tour of the Association of Surfing Professionals/World Surf League in 2007, 2009, and 2013.

The Associated Press YouTube channel has nearly 2 million subscribers and has a shocking video of Fanning’s performance during the popular event. Michael, also known as “White Lightning,” had at least two shark encounters, the most recent of which was seen on live television.

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The footage shows the professional surfer waiting for a swell when things took a life-altering turn. “I was just sitting there. I was just about to start moving, and then I felt something grab, got stuck in my leg rope,” Michael calmly stated.

“So I instantly just jumped away, and then it just kept coming at my board. At the time I was kicking and screaming,” he said.

Johannesburg is known for sharks in the waters. Each year, up to 100 shark attacks are reported, with only approximately 5-10 of them resulting in death. Michael’s life was spared thanks to his experience as a surfer.

Michael just saw fins. He goes on to say, “I didn’t see the teeth. I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back.”

After the encounter, the 41-year-old swiftly returned to the ocean, but White Lightning acknowledges the incident left him scarred, prompting him to collaborate with shark specialists to create a documentary about the species.

“Sharks are incredible, they’re majestic and beautiful things but at the end of the day, they are powerful creatures,” Michael comments. 

He returned to surfing less than a week after the attack, finishing second in the world championship for 2015 and pledging never to leave the sport he adores.

Shark attacks on boys and men accounted for 93% of shark attacks, as per Nat Geo Wild. The reason for this is simple: more men than women surf, boogie board, and SCUBA dive, all of which are dangerous hobbies. Sharks eat during dawn and dusk, so avoid the water or be extra cautious during those times.

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Learn more about these beautiful, fascinating, and feared creatures. 

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The Featured Image

Shortfin mako shark with pilot fish.
Shortfin mako shark swimming with pilot fish. Pilot fish are small fishes that can be seen swimming alongside sharks and other bigger fishes.
© Xavier ELIAS Photography/

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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