Can the WSL ever take the risk going back?
Proving ground of the world’s best surfing for over 30 years, best right hand point break on the planet. Jeffreys Bay is a town with surfing at its heart. So many surfers refer to J-Bay as the best wave on earth.
Are today’s events proof that sharks are, in reality, not human hungry killers?
Even so, can the WSL ever run a professional surf event at Jeffrey’s Bay again?
If it were up to you, what would you do? Is it worth the risk?
South African surfer and ex QS shredder Chris Bond shares his opinion on the men in grey suits:
Wow, that was undeniably one of the craziest and scariest things ever seen on live viewing and TV.
No reality series could have scripted that, because it was all natural and it really did just happen. The surfing world is mainly in shock, and the competing surfers and their mates definitely are! Wait, what really just happened?
In the first few minutes of the final of the Jeffreys Bay open Julian Wilson had just caught a wave and was paddling back up the point. Mick Fanning was out the back waiting for a set, and he was being shown on the live webcast and TV as they pulled up his stats, when suddenly we all saw it, a fin. The fin that we saw at first was the smaller dorsal fin almost in line with Fanning, and then a splash as the much larger tail pops out the water and then some thrashing and splashing. Fanning looks behind him, and lifts his feet up kicking; then gets a fin to the shoulder from in front of his board as the shark thrashed around to the other side. What happens after that only Fanning knows, as a wave came in front of the video camera, but he got separated from his board and started swimming to shore, without any sign of the shark.
So you’ve already watched the video 50 times, what’s the relevance of this? First things first, news broadcasters like the BBC have reported that there were two sharks, because WSL representative said there ‘may’ have been two sharks. Speaking to a shark expert, diver and dive tour operator in South Africa, he confirms what many were saying that it was only one shark, well in the incident anyway. Furthermore he said it was a great white, and when it comes to size, well its hard to tell. Given the distance between the tail and dorsal fin it looks to be around 3m, a ‘good size’ shark.
But was it really an attack? Was this blood thirsty creature, as it is so often portrayed, really fought off by Mick Fanning, or was there something else at play? Everywhere around the world people are using the word “attack”. If a three metre great white had really gone in there to attack Mick, I am sad to say that this whole situation would be an absolute tragedy, because things would most likely have been a lot worse. If you’ve seen a great white attack a seal before, you’ll know there isn’t very much room left for error.
Watching the footage, and Mick Fanning’s account, this was an incredibly curious shark who swam extremely close to Mick Fanning. From the footage it looks like it was swimming past him, and then got stuck in his leash (from Mick Fanning’s account). What ensued was a rather surprised great white and a rather surprised Mick Fanning. Despite this beast being right next to its prey, it didn’t try and bite Mick, or even his board, and with a couple of punches from Fanning in the commotion, as well as the boats heading its way, it felt happy to swim off unscathed.
This is not to say that sharks don’t occasionally attack people, even if they usually bite once and leave the scene, but its just rather reassuring for me as a South African surfer to see that this shark, although right next to a surfer and an easy chance to attack, chose not to. Some say the leash saved him, but surely a shark coming towards a surfer mouth open to attack, wouldn’t even notice a leash as it would have no resistance, and Mick wouldn’t have felt a pull? Yes sharks teeth are extremely sharp, and they usually swim with their mouth slightly open, so the leash being severed makes perfect sense and isn’t that surprising if it got tangled in it slightly; as it sounds like it was according to Mick’s version of the story.
It was certainly the right call to call off the event and let those involved take a break, and appreciate life, but for other surfers, like local boy Remi Petersen, they saw uncrowded cooking Supertubes and paddled straight out to get some!
What stands out more than anything from this entire situation, is the camaraderie and brotherhood that is shared amongst the world’s best surfers, and all surfers. Julian Wilson didn’t heed Mick or Gigg’s calls on the microphone to go in, but rather charged straight up the point to go and help his mate out. We saw Adrian ‘Ace’ Buchan with tears in his eyes as he hugged Mick so happy to see him okay. Parko raced over from his house where he had been watching with his family, and Kelly was in disbelief that something that could have potentially gone so wrong with a surfers worst nightmare, had turned out totally okay.
Mick said he’d be happy if he didn’t surf another heat in his life, in so far as that being alive right then was much more important than anything else after his experience. Everyone will be rattled, and some may be scared of Jeffreys Bay in the future, and maybe we dodged a bullet this time, but amazing how something that ‘should’ have turned out terribly, actually turned out okay.