Three-time world champion surfer Mick Fanning arrived home to Tweed Heads last night to spend time with family and friends after his miraculous escape from a large shark during a world surfing event in South Africa at the weekend.
Fanning was escorted by police off the plane at Coolangatta airport and whisked off via a side exit to his home in order to avoid the continuing media spotlight after his close encounter with a great white shark, which was seen on live television by millions of people around the world.
Hours before at Sydney airport, Fanning and fellow surfer Julian Wilson fielded questions from a large media conference, telling journalists from around the world that it was nothing short of a miracle he escaped unharmed.
The two shark heroes recalled the amazing moment the shark went for Fanning while he was competing at Jeffreys Bay.
‘Big hugs’ with family and friends are on the agenda for the 34-year-old triple world champion who pledged to return to competitive surfing, but his immediate plans were to spend time with family.
‘I’m just cruising, just having family and friends around. Just big hugs,’ he said.
Fanning told journalists he was ‘doing OK’ in the aftermath of the attack but expected to take some time to deal with the resultant emotional and mental trauma.
‘It will probably take a couple of weeks, months – I don’t know how long it’s going to take,’ he said.
Fanning said he could not see himself not returning to surfing.
‘I’m sure I’ll go surfing, surfing has given me so much, it’s something I do to clear my mind, it’s something that gives me peace,’ he said.
‘It’s got me through the hardest times in my life. To turn my back on it wouldn’t feel right.’
And he will not turn his back on Jeffreys Bay, which he says is one of his favourite places on earth.
‘I’ll have to go back. It’s going to be hard, but you’ve got to face these things front on.’
But he admits he first needs to overcome ‘an emotional, mental sort of trauma right now’.
Fanning was joined on his return to Australia by friend and protege Julian Wilson, who was on his first wave of the final of the J-Bay event when the shark attacked.
He lauded the bravery of Wilson, who paddled toward him to help as the shark struck.
‘He just gave all regard up for himself, and came for me,’ he said. ‘He was so brave … he’s just a warrior. Thanks, bud.’
For an in-depth interview see www.redbullcontentpool.com