A shaken Mick Fanning has vowed to return to surfing despite fighting off a shark during a competition in South Africa.
The Australian surfer described his terrifying ordeal to reporters in Sydney on his return home.
He thanked his “warrior” mate and fellow competitor Julian Wilson who swam into the fray to help.
In one light moment, he was asked if he had a message for the shark. He replied: “Thanks for not eating me”.
“I guess someone was looking out for me. To walk away from a shark attack with not a scratch on you, it’s a miracle really,” said Fanning.
The 34-year-old was the defending champion at the tournament at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and a three-time world champion.
Dramatic footage of the encounter on Sunday showed the moment when the shark hit the back of his board.
“It sort of came up and went for the tail of my board,” he said. “I don’t know why it didn’t bite. It just kept coming back.”
“I was on top of it, trying to put my board in between us,” he said. “I don’t know if I punched it hard or if they were baby punches. I just went into fight or flight.”
After that, jet-skis and rescue boats arrived to pick him up.
Wilson, also a competitor at the event, paddled towards Fanning when he saw the shark.
“I came over the wave, praying he would be there and not … with blood everywhere,” he told reporter at the same press conference. “The worst case scenario is in your head.”
Fanning said he would return to surfing, and to the J-Bay event, but it may take some time.
“I’m sure I’ll go surfing [soon], surfing has given me so much, it’s something that gives me peace, I’m sure I’ll go back out … I’m quite anxious to get back home,” he said according to the Guardian newspaper.