July 21, 2015

Mick Fanning's J-Bay Open Shark Attack - Out of Something Awful, Something Awesome

This past Sunday, the surfing world was shaken as a shark attacked Mick Fanning during the J-Bay Open in South Africa. We thought we were losing one of our beloved brothers but when the dust settled we realized some pretty amazing things.


The scene was set, two Australians in the finals, the competition had been intense, the waves were right and then something terrifying. A thrash and an enormous fin. Before we had a chance to catch our breath, Mick was away from his surfboard swimming towards shore and getting scooped up by a ski and then quickly onto a safety boat. In the background, Julian Wilson paddling quickly to Mick’s aid before also getting picked up by a ski.

The next few moments were a blur as Mick was interviewed on the boat and many things were put into perspective for surfers and athletes worldwide.
  1. It’s easy for us to get caught up in ourselves and forget that the world doesn’t belong to us, it is called home by billions of animals, plants, and nature and we merely share it. The ocean being the least ‘home’ to humans out of any habitat.
  2. Shark attacks and bumps terrify us when really the only thing the shark is trying to do is eat.
  3. Our knee-jerk fear brings out our more base human instincts, in this case, fear, courage, and friendship.
We saw examples of these in the few moments that the attack took place. An animal seeking a meal, a courageous man refusing to give up, and a fearless friend who would put his life on the line to help his brother. It brings to light an average day where people can be upset by something as little as losing a cell phone signal.
With mainstream sports constantly involved in cheating, scandals, egos, and supporter violence, yesterday had some extreme and beautiful moments. Two top-tier competitors in a close race for the world title, cared about nothing more than the other’s safety. It's important not to turn this against sharks but it's also important to respect their power and their presence.
The surfing and extreme sports community is something special. It’s a culture and a way of life generally full of people that are more in tune with themselves and in touch with the world around them. We are a close-knit community that lives, loves, and laughs while respecting the environment. How many times have you watched the XGames and seen fellow riders cheer when the person against whom they are competing sticks a trick? All the time. It’s the true meaning of competition. This is a moment that should be looked at by the world and pondered.
We all need to make a way for ourselves in the world and we all may compete, but in the end..we’re all on the same team.