“I was just sitting there, I was just about to start moving, and then I felt something grab, just get stuck in my leg rope,” he said, sounding remarkably calm moments later. “I instantly just jumped away, and then it just kept coming at my board. I was kicking and screaming.
“I just saw fins. I didn’t see the teeth. I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back.”
Because the video isn’t terrifying enough, take a look at this:
“All of [a] sudden, I just had this instinct that something was behind me,” Fanning told WorldSurfLeague.com. “And then all of a sudden, I felt like I started getting pulled under water. Then the [shark] came up, and I was on my board and it was like right there, and I saw the whole thing 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. I felt like it was dragging me under water, and then my leg rope broke, and I started swimming and screaming.”
Because Fanning is a surfing legend, he recovered pretty quickly.
“I just can’t believe it. I’m just tripping. … To walk away from that, I’m just so stoked.”
These waters, Reuters reports, are among the most shark-infested in the world and the news service reports that a surfer was killed by a Great White shark close to Jeffreys Bay in 2013.
The near-tragedy left Wilson in a state of shock.
Among those deeply shaken was Wilson, with whom Fanning split the winnings when the event was called off. He broke down several times as he tried to describe what happened and how he attempted to get to Fanning.
“It came up and he was wrestling it, and I saw he got knocked off his board,” Wilson said, breaking down. “I was like `I’ve got a board, if I can get there I can stab it or whatever, I’ve got a weapon.’”
In spite of Fanning’s “stoked” comment, surfers were stunned by what they’d seen.
“It’s shaken everyone,” WSL Commissioner Kieran Perrow said. “We’re just happy to see [Fanning] safe and alive. It’s not something you believe would ever happen, and to see it unfold on live [television] is incredibly scary for everyone.”
This post was updated to add fresh video.