Ricochet News

J-Bay Great White could have been 'curious'

JULY 20, 2015
J-Bay Great White could have been 'curious'

The Great White that attacked professional surfer Mick Fanning during the final heat of the J-Bay Open in Jeffreys Bay on Sunday may have just been curious, according to an expert.

Geremy Cliff, head of Research at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, said that whilst it is nearly impossible to ascertain why the shark attacked Fanning, it was likely that the animal was “investigating” the surfer.

Fanning had been bumped off his board and was almost dragged under the water by his ankle rope which was either severed or broke.

He was not bitten, and the only damage to his board was a slight depression.

“If we are speculating about the motive of the incident it is either that the shark was feeding and mistook the surfer and his board for prey. It could have been that the shark was curious and was investigating the surfer who was in its habitat or the third possibility is out and out aggression,” he said.

“You sometimes have a situation where a shark is in feeding mode and then attacks a surfer and when it realises that the board is not the consistency or taste of prey they back off. Considering that there was no actual bite in this case I would tend to say that shark was just investigating Fanning.

Cliff said that all things considered, Fanning was incredibly lucky.

“He is obviously very fortunate not to have been injured or killed. We have on average six shark incidents per year and to date we have had three serious attacks, one in which a body surfer lost a leg,” he added.

Fanning and fellow finalist Julian Wilson split the winner’s purse on Sunday, after the final stage of the competition was called off.

A statement released by the World Surf League said: “The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open. We appreciate the ongoing support we have in South Africa and once again want to express our gratitude to the Water Safety Team.”