In Brief

Surfer Mick Fanning in shark attack on live TV – video

One of the world's leading surfers escapes unharmed after fighting off the animal with his fists

Australian professional surfer Mick Fanning has survived a shark attack during an international competition in South Africa. 

In a live TV broadcast of the event, a fin appeared as the 34-year-old was taking part in the competition's final.Fanning, who is currently ranked number three in the world, attempted to use his board as a shield before punching the animal in its back. The combination of the shark and an incoming wave meant Fanning ended up under the water, but incredibly he remained unharmed.

Once back on dry land, Fanning told the waiting media: "I was just sitting there and I felt something just get stuck in my leg rope, and I was kicking trying to get it away. I punched him in the back."

He said it felt like the shark was "dragging" him under water. "Then my leg rope broke, and I started swimming and screaming," he explained.Despite the ordeal, Fanning remained remarkably positive: "I just can't believe it. I’m just tripping… To walk away from that, I’m just so stoked."

The surfer's mother, Elizabeth Osborne, had seen the whole incident unfold on television and praised the bravery of her son and his surfing rival Julian Wilson, who had attempted to swim over to Fanning and protect him from the attack. "They are just such great friends and Julian is such a beautiful boy. Everybody was just so scared for Mick." She told reporters: "I just thought when that wave came through that he'd gone." 

The organisers of the competition, the World Surf League, cancelled the rest of the event and said in a statement: "We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today, Mick's composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic."

The waters of South Africa are among the most shark infested in the world and, according to the Daily Telegraph, a swimmer was killed in 2013 by a great white shark close to where the competition took place.

Despite the popularity of films such as Jaws, and the recent attacks on two American teenagers in June, the likelihood of an unprovoked shark attack is still incredibly slim according to experts.

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