'We're in the shark's domain, I'm lucky it wasn't my time'
SURFERS Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson have arrived back on Australian soil after miraculously walking away from a shark attack during a surfing championship in South Africa.
Both men flew into Sydney Airport on Tuesday afternoon and spoke to the media after the incident at the J-Bay Open in Jeffreys Bay captivated the world and made international headlines.
The three-time world champion from Tweed Heads says he felt a "presence" in the water before the shark went for the tail of his board first.
"I don't know why it didn't bite or whatever. My board's totally fine too," said Fanning.
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He says his initial reaction was to put the board in between him and the shark.
"I was trying to get to my board and then all of a sudden, it came back again and that's when I just tried to just position myself away from it to the side of it and it just was right there and that's when I don't know if I punched it hard or if it was a little baby punches, I don't know. I just sort of went in to, you know, fight or flight really.
"I started getting dragged underwater by my leg rope and that's when my leg rope broke, just as it started going away and I was like do I go for my board or do I swim for shore?
"As I was swimming in, I was like doing freestyle and then I was like hang on, this thing, if this thing is going to come at me, I want to have a look at it and so I turned around and was on my back and I was just waiting for it, I had my fists cocked and ready to see what was going to go and, yeah, luckily it didn't come and by that stage, then both the jet skis were on top of us."
"I felt so insignificant. Like, the thing was so powerful and was, yeah, just moved so fast and I was just trying to manoeuvre my way around it."
Julian Wilson also spoke about the moment he saw the fin in the water next to his friend and mentor.
"I just froze and saw Mick getting manhandled by the shark," remembered Wilson.
"I was trying to weigh up the situation and he was getting wrestled off his board and a wave came between us... I started paddling towards him.
"I felt like i had my board still and if I could just get to him.... I was just praying that I wasn't going to see that same thing or see him disappear under water."
Wilson said his greatest fear was not the shark itself, but not being able to get to Mick in time.
"He's an amazing human being and a great friend and a great role model. And like I said, I was just so panicked that I wasn't getting there in time for him. I felt like I had to hold it together for Mick."
Less than 48 hours after the attack, Fanning says he is "doing ok."
"You know, it sort of goes through waves and stuff and hearing Julian recount it and, just reading messages, it sort of brings up emotions like, you know, it was so close.
"I'm doing OK though. I haven't got a scratch on me... just sort of more of an emotional mental sort of trauma right now and it will probably take, I don't know, couple of weeks, months... I don't know how long it is going to take, but I'm just lucky I have got really good people around me and great friends to just pick me up."
And as for Fanning's thoughts about the shark that nearly took his life?
"We are in the shark's domain... I am just lucky it wasn't my time."