While Australian surfer Mick Fanning fought for his life against a shark in South African waters, his mum watched the terrifying moment back at home on live television.
Fanning emerged unscathed after fighting off the shark which attacked him while he waited for his first wave in the final of the World Surf League (WSL) event at Jeffreys Bay.
His mother Elizabeth Osborne said as she saw the event unfold she walked towards the television as if to “pull him out” and rescue him.
“I was absolutely terrified. I went over to the television almost as though I could pull him out … to save him,” she said.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought we’d lost him.”
An emotional Ms Osborne said she was proud her son managed to fend off what was suspected to be a great white.
“He phoned me not long after and said, ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me’, [but he was] very shaken of course,” she said.
Watch the incredible video footage below (warning: contains profanities)
[display-jwplayer playerwidth=”100%” playervideourl=”/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/WSL-Mick-Fanning-attacked-by-shark-Wi-Fi-High.mp4″]
The Fanning family already lost Mick’s brother Sean in a car accident almost 17 years ago.
“When Sean was killed in the car accident, I didn’t see it,” Ms Osborne said.
“I saw this just in front of me. It was just terrible.”
Surfrider Foundation Australia chairman Brendan Donohoe said he was thankful Fanning was OK.
“It was extraordinary vision to see a surfer of that calibre and that notoriety actually wrestling with a shark. It is mad,” he said.
But he said the shark probably was not planning to attack the surfer.
“[The shark] certainly wasn’t, to my mind, in attack mode at all,” he said.
“This is clearly an incident, it’s not an attack. If the shark was attacking, Mick would have massive injuries if not loss of life.
“It was the shark I think coming up to investigate what was going on.”
— Coco Ho (@coco_ho) July 19, 2015
— Sally Fitzgibbons (@Sally_Fitz) July 19, 2015
Sharks ‘not hunting surfers’
Despite the expected big headlines and calls to cull the sharks, Mr Donohoe said sharks do not actively hunt surfers.
“Clearly if actually sharks wanted to eat people and surfers, surfing wouldn’t exist. We would never have learned to surf,” he said.
“These incidents are essentially mistakes by sharks. They’re not crocodiles – crocodiles actually hunt people and eat them.
“Sharks occasionally attack but most of the time they attack they don’t finish off their prey at all – they taste it and move on,” he said.
Mr Donohoe said Fanning’s reaction to the shark was “perfect” and said he doubted the three-time world champion would stay out of the water for long.
“He didn’t freak out … I don’t think he’ll be giving up surfing,” he said.
Fanning, 34, said he punched and kicked the shark that knocked him off his board during the J-Bay Open event.
“I literally just jumped away and it just kept coming at my board and I was kicking and swimming,” he said.
“I just saw fin – I didn’t see the teeth, I was waiting for some teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back.
“I saw the whole thing just thrashing around … I punched it a couple of times, but I felt like it was dragging me under water.
“Then all of a sudden my leg rope broke and I was swimming and screaming.
“I was swimming in and I had this thought what if it comes for another go at me?
“So I turned around, so I could at least see it, and before I knew it the boat was there, the jetskis were there. I just can’t believe it.”
Fellow Australian surfer Julian Wilson was out on the water with Fanning at the time of the attack.
He said he could not get to Fanning quick enough.
“It came up and he was wrestling it, and I saw he got knocked off his board,” he said.
“I was like ‘I’ve got a board, if I can get there I can stab it or whatever, I’ve got a weapon’.
“I saw the whole thing and saw he got knocked off his board, and then a little wave popped up and I was like ‘oh he’s gone … he’s gone under’.
“I felt like I couldn’t get there quick enough.”
Slater: We almost watched our friend get eaten
Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater was on the beach when the attack happened.
“Now I have seen it all. It was surreal to me,” he said.
“Once he gets past this scare and the fear of it, he’s going to laugh.
“It will be really well talked about. In 20 years we’re going to be talking about that day.”
Slater said there were moments when he thought Fanning was done for.
“I saw all the boats and skis go straight to the line up, and I was like, there’s only one possible reason that would ever happen, ever in a contest – somebody got whacked by a shark,” he said.
“I just ran up the beach, and I was like ‘what happened,’ I was just trying to find some information.
“I’m halfway between crying and laughing. He got so lucky … I’m sort of lost for words.
“Life’s a lot more important than a surf contest and I really don’t think Mick’s too worried about whether he gets second place right now. All of us almost just watched our friend get eaten by a shark.
“I’m just blown away that there’s no damage at all … it’s a big shark, it’s a lot bigger than Mick and it’s multiples of his weight and a lot bigger than he was.”
Fanning’s manager Ronnie Blakey said although the athlete was badly shaken, he would surf again.
“He is in a fantastic position to have a run at his fourth world title … I think Mick will regroup,” he told Triple M.
“Everyone at the event believes he’s the man to beat in 2015.”