See a Surfer Narrowly Survive a Shark Attack During Competition

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: October 17, 2023
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Key Points:
  • Each year, up to 100 shark attacks are reported in Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • During a World Surf League event, this video shows a pro surfer almost attacked by a shark — but his quick thinking and skills saved his life.
  • Sharks eat during dawn and dusk, so avoid the water or be extra cautious during those times.

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. Mick Fanning, 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,” Mick 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 five to 10 of them resulting in death. Mick’s life was spared thanks to his experience as a surfer.

Mick 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,” Mick 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.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Xavier ELIAS Photography/

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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