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.
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.
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
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.