We have all seen the footage a thousand times now of the “Fanning Shark” but lets dig a little
deeper and hopefully put it into perspective.
What made this different to any other attack?
The big difference was it was live on television and streamed live on the World Surf League
(WSL) website. By breaking it down further, the camera was actually on Fanning at the time
the shark arrived on the scene.
It could have happened during the first wave Julian Wilson caught or on his paddle back out
but it happened as he was on screen.
Any shark experience will shake up anyone, specially those who grew up after the Jaws era,
a film that made some people rethink their love of the ocean.
Many surfers have shark stories even me.
Surfing with a mate on an unpatrolled beach in Northern NSW, a 6ft shark swam directly
under me and freaked me out and what followed can only be described as a very quick paddle in.
Always one to face fears head on we paddled out again the next day and somehow my legrope
came off. The long swim in which seemed to take forever was a good chance to think about
sharks and is probably how my fascination with them began.
Becoming a Scuba Diver a few years later gave me the opportunity to get up close and
personal with these majestic creatures.
As a avid watcher of shark documentary’s on the Discovery Channel, it’s interesting to
see the behaviour at J Bay.
Great Whites are known to attack from underneath at speeds of up to 40km/h with a bit
force of 4,000psi which is massive.
During an attack a film covers the eye to protect it from damage. The shark relies on
sensors in it’s nose to guide it.
Due to attacking blind, the animal doesn’t know what it has till it grabs it. Due to the
ferocity of the initial attack, most humans die from blood loss and rarely eaten as Hollywood
would have us believe.
The Fanning Shark may have been young and taking a bit of a look but happened to get
caught up in Fannings legrope, however try telling Fanning this.
Commentator Peter Mel tried to say this but was quickly shutdown.
So where to from here for Fanning?
The main thing is to clear the head and get back in the water, the quicker the better.
The drive home from the airport could be more dangerous but no one can imagine how
shaken up he is, same for Julian Wilson.
Wilson was paddling back out when it all unfolded and it is well known now, the thought
processes running through his mind.
Were the actions of Wilson brave?
Paddling towards an area where an attack could be occurring is brave. It takes much
more than guts. It is a heroic act and should be seen as so.
As during last Summer the people of Newcastle have learned that sharks will be more
common as they chase bait closer to shore.
The Newcastle shark had it’s own Twitter account (@Newyshark) and recently re-emerged with the appearance of (@j bayshark).
The Newy Shark even had it’s own range of clothing, placing some humour into the plight
of the surf starved surfers over Summer.
Surfers will always venture out into the water as the chances of an attack are slim at best.
We are luckily not a favoured food of sharks.
Whilst the Fanning incident was rare, it is a timely reminder that we share our beloved
ocean with many creatures.
We are surfers, we love and protect the ocean but we are small and insignificant in the
scheme of things. This includes protecting the sharks we so often fear.
Fanning and Wilson will be back. They will be nervous that first time and probably many
times after that, but be assured that this will not stop them.