Mick Fanning:Shark attack surfer has Malin Head roots

  • Mick Fanning was competing in the final of the J-Bay Open at South Africa’s Jeffrey’s Bay when the shark attacked him from behind
  • The event was being broadcast live on television at the time
  • Fanning has strong local connections as his father, John, comes from Malin Head.

The Australian surfer who fought off a shark attack as the world watched live on TV has strong local connections.

Mick Fanning has been lauded for his quick-thinking after he “punched” a shark which had attacked him from behind as he was competing in the final of the J-Bay Open at South Africa’s Jeffrey’s Bay on Sunday.

The event was being broadcast live on TV and thousands of viewers watched the attack unfold.

The three-time world champion, who was unharmed, is the son of John Fanning, originally from Malin Head in Donegal.

John left his Inishowen home for England in the 60s, before he moved to Australia in the early 70s.

Mick Fanning’s mother, Liz Osbourne, is from Birmingham and watched the shark attack as it unfolded on live television.

Surfer Mick Fanning was competing in the final of the J-Bay Open at South Africa's Jeffrey's Bayhen the shark swam up behind him.

Surfer Mick Fanning was competing in the final of the J-Bay Open at South Africa's Jeffrey's Bayhen the shark swam up behind him.

The 34-year-old regularly speaks of his Irish roots, telling how they have help shape him as a person and surfer and he’s a keen visitor to Donegal.

A recent movie in which he starred, called ‘Missing,’ saw him dropped off at various surfing locations around the world, including Malin Head’s Port Ronan.

Mick Fannning was already a well-known name before Sunday’s incident but has now made headlines across the world.

The attack occurred as he was waiting for his first wave of the final, when a shark fin came up close behind him.

He saw it and began to paddle away but was dragged off his board. A wave then hit and Fanning went out of sight, as shocked commentators tried to explain to viewers what was taking place.

Nearby rescue boats raced to him and he was helped to shore.

Speaking to the World Surf League website, Fanning said he felt like he was getting pulled underwater and then saw the shark thrashing around.

“I was getting dragged under by my leg rope and then I felt like it kicked me off, but it was still there and I was still attached to my board,” he said.

He added he felt like the shark was “dragging” him underwater, before his leg rope broke and he started “swimming and screaming.”

Fanning told how he saw the fin, but didn’t see the sharks teeth.

“I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I swimming,” he said, adding he then “punched” the shark in the back.

The rest of the competition was cancelled and Fanning and his fellow finalist Julian Wilson agreed to both take second place, with the prize money split between them.