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Shark punching surfer Mick Fanning grateful to be home

By Staff Reporters

Published 22/07/2015

Near miss: Mick Fanning
Near miss: Mick Fanning

A surfer who fought off a shark with his bare hands at a competition in South Africa has returned home to Australia "without a scratch on me".

Mick Fanning (34) appeared at a news conference in Sydney before heading home to the Gold Coast with a story he will be telling for the rest of his life.

"It was so close. I'm doing okay, though," he said. "I haven't got a scratch on me. Just more of an emotional, mental sort of trauma right now.

"To walk away from a shark attack with not a scratch on you - it is a miracle, really."

Fanning was competing against fellow Aussie Julian Wilson in the final of the JBay Open, the World Surf League event at Jeffreys Bay on South Africa's east coast, when a shark bumped him off his board.

In a video of the event on the World Surf League website, Fanning can be seen scanning the water before a big fin emerges behind him. He turns to deal with the shark, and then loses his board as a wave rolls in and he disappears from view.

Wilson was paddling towards Fanning and later said he believed if he could get there with his board, he would at least have a weapon to distract the shark, which he estimated was at least twice the size of Fanning.

Fanning said at first he tried to swim away but then decided to defend himself, and turned to punch the shark in the back.

He was next seen furiously swimming towards a boat, where he was helped out of the water and back to shore.

He recounted the events to fans around him on the beach, and only later, when the adrenalin subsided, did the tears kick in as he realised just how close he had come to serious injury or death.

Yesterday, he said he felt so "insignificant" compared with the size and speed of the shark, but did not hold any grudges against the predator because he knew "we are in their domain".

"Thanks for not eating me," he joked.

Fanning plans to return to surfing and also plans to go back to JBay.

Wilson has been nominated for a bravery award by the Queensland state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Fanning agreed that Wilson's support, and the quick reaction of the rescue boats and other watercraft, helped him out of danger.

"He was so brave... like a warrior. Thanks bud."

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