Steve Pike

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

MI CK FAN­NING re­cov­ered from his shark scare last year to win the JBay Open last week­end. It was an emo­tional mo­ment for the Aussie, who ac­ci­den­tally sparked a con­fla­gra­tion of Chuck Nor­ris memes when he es­caped the in­ci­dent un­scathed on live stream­ing.

Like last year, Fan­ning made it to the fi­nal. But this time he got to fin­ish the heat, best­ing John John Florence in the sixth event of the World Surf League Cham­pi­onship tour.

Last year, the shark buzzed him in the fi­nal against com­pa­triot Ju­lian Wil­son and the heat, and the re­sult, were called off. This year, Wil­son and Fan­ning got their re­match – in the semi-fi­nals. “I’m so pleased I got to have that semi­fi­nal with Mick,” said Wil­son, who bravely pad­dled straight to­ward the shark com­mo­tion last year to help his coun­try­man.

Fan­ning is one of those surfers who knows how to surf Su­per­tubes prop­erly. The spot is prob­a­bly one of the eas­i­est waves in the world to ride, but one of the most dif­fi­cult to look in supreme con­trol, es­pe­cially when you have a shark try­ing to nib­ble on your foot.

Tim­ing is cru­cial. If you mist­ime a big move, you run the risk of stalling, and the fast, walling sec­tions will run away from you, leav­ing you stuck in the foam.

Cut­backs – when you turn back to­wards the curl of the wave – can undo even the best surfers. Fan­ning com­bines style, power and tim­ing when he surfs Su­pers, and he looks re­ally good do­ing it.

He joins a long list of surfers who have graced the spot with their unique styles. But it’s a funny old wave. Some surfers look weird and un­gainly surfing there, even when they are rip­ping.

Shaun Tom­son, though, de­spite his bandy-legged stance, had the wave wired. His tube-rid­ing skills are leg­endary. Oth­ers who have made it look easy in­clude Tom Curren, Kelly Slater, Mark Oc­ciluppo and our own Sean Holmes, among other SA stand­outs.

Thank­fully, the flow of the pros while carv­ing those leg­endary walls this year were not in­ter­rupted by any sharks.

Or­gan­is­ers were not tak­ing any chances,though. A so­phis­ti­cated, and very ex­pen­sive, sonar-based shark de­tec­tion sys­tem was placed along the point by Perth- based Shark Mit­i­ga­tion Sys­tems. Their Clever Buoys used sonar to seek out sharks, re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion to shore, where WSL of­fi­cials could make a call.

No one is say­ing if sharks were sighted, but no calls were made. As surfers, though, we’re aware of their pres­ence all the time, even sub­con­sciously. We call them “Men in Grey Suits” so as not to men­tion the un­men­tion­able dur- ing a surf. It’s bad luck.

We think about shark pop­u­la­tions, too, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. But ac­cord­ing to a re­port from sci­en­tists at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity – in­clud­ing “Shark Man” Mike Rutzen from Gansbaai – white sharks are headed for ex­tinc­tion, with 353 to 522 white sharks left in South Africa.

The re­search is based on com­plex al­go­rithms and methodology, but only at one ag­gre­ga­tion site, Gansbaai. The data was ex­trap­o­lated to in­clude the whole of SA.

I’m no sci­en­tist but the gut feel­ing of surfers is that this statis­tic is on the low side.

Cut-off May­hem

SOME se­ri­ous rain and a big east swell is head­ing our way next week, es­pe­cially the coast be­tween Agul- has and Cape St Fran­cis as a cut­off low pres­sure sy­sem forms on Tues­day. Huge rain­fall, re­sult­ing in floods, can be ex­pected, with a 10-15 foot east swell light­ing up the points on the East Coast. I will re­port back on this next week.

En­duro MTB

PULL into the Jonker­shoek MTB trails next Sun­day for the first of three WP En­duro events this year. Ride up some easy hills so you can bomb some epic sin­gle track – some of which is brand-new – and then join the us for a braai and beer af­ter­wards. En­ter www. wp­down­hill.co.za/events.html.

Ber­tish At It Again

CHRIS BER­TISH is go­ing to at­tempt the first-ever solo, full- length, Transat­lantic Standup Pad­dle Cross­ing. He will un­der­take the marathon 7 500 km jour­ney from Morocco to Florida in mid-De­cem­ber un­sup­ported and unas­sisted on a cus­tom-made six-me­tre standup pad­dle board.

All I can say is, yikes. Pro­fes­sor Tim Noakes and the Sports Science In­sti­tute will help Chris re­ceives the right nu­tri­tion and per­for­mance ad­vice. www.chris­ber­tish.com #theSupCross­ing

Weather Tip

MILD south winds and lots of south swell this week­end mean wob­bly 2-4’ lines in False Bay in mild on­shores. Winds mod­er­ate to­day, but light to­mor­row, and tend­ing SE, which opens some 3-4’ op­por­tu­ni­ties on the ex­posed west coast.

NOT A GREY SUIT IN SIGHT: Mick Fan­ning in ac­tion at the JBay Open last week­end. The Aus­tralian claimed the ti­tle, a year after his shark at­tack at the event.

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