Last year was an emotional rollercoaster for Australian pro surfer Mick Fanning. He was faced with the death of his brother as well as the infamous, terrifying shark encounter during the J-Bay Open, to eventually finish as the world title runner-up.
In the aftermath of his draining year, Fanning announced he wouldn’t be surfing a full schedule this year. But one of the places he wanted to surf, without question, was Jeffreys Bay in South Africa.
According to Mick, it was important for him to head back to J-Bay to get a chance to pave over the mental scar tissue left behind after coming face-to-face with a great white last year. It was about getting back to surfing as usual.
On Tuesday, as reported by SURFING, Fanning got his chance:
“A little bit of anxiety sort of came up and a few different emotions,” Fanning says in the above Instagram video. “But once I got the wetsuit on and got the board ready and paddled out it was pretty much fun. Once you catch that first wave and you realize [the shark] was a one-off incident, hopefully, then yeah, you just get on with it and go surfing.”
And while Fanning underplayed the intensity of the moment, SURFING staff photographer Corey Wilson, who was there with Fanning to document the moment, said that the experience was otherworldly.
“Though Mick seemed excited to get in the water, I could tell he was a little bit nervous — his hands were shaking,” wrote Wilson. “I know he really wanted to get that first surf out of the way and just calm his nerves after what happened the last time he was in the water out here. I can imagine it's a mental hurdle he really wanted to put in the past.
“A couple hours later, when the waves picked up, he started getting ready to head out and things got intense,” Wilson continued. “I could feel this crazy energy in the house – we were hanging in his room and I had to go downstairs because the mood was so tense.”
The upcoming 2016 J-Bay Open will be webcast live on the World Surf League’s website, with the waiting period starting on July 6. Fanning will try to improve on his performance from last year, where he and fellow finalist Julian Wilson were forced to split second place after the shark encounter forced organizers to call off the event.
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