Australian surfer 'excited' to compete again after fighting off shark on 'live' TV

The 34-year-old made headlines around the globe when he battled a shark on live television.
The 34-year-old made headlines around the globe when he battled a shark on live television. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian surf champion Mick Fanning is set to return to competitive surfing less than a month after fighting off a shark in South Africa, saying on Friday he was keen to move on and do what he loves.

The 34-year-old made headlines around the globe when he battled a shark on live television while competing at a world tour event at Jeffreys Bay off South Africa's Eastern Cape province in mid-July.

"It's all good. I feel fine," the three-time world champion told Sydney's Daily Telegraph from Tahiti, where he is set to compete in the next leg of the World Surf League Tour this weekend.

"To be honest I can't wait to just out this behind me and get back to doing what I love, surfing.

"I'm very excited to be back in the water competing. It will be nice for people to start focusing on something different."

Mr Fanning, who is currently ranked second on the tour, added that he was more concerned about the conditions off Teahupo'o, which is renowned for its heavy waves, than sharks.

"Over here it's pretty unlikely you're going to see any big great whites," Mr Fanning, who has won in Tahiti once - in 2012, told the Australian Associated Press.

"Over here it's a different kettle of fish, it's the wave that's the solid part of it and that's what you've got to focus on.

"I've been here many times. I'm comfortable with the wave, it's just a matter of surfing right at the right time."

Mr Fanning told the Daily Telegraph he had not sought professional help following the attack but would "talk it out" with his family and friends.

"It's not a taboo topic. I talk about it when I need to."

About a week after battling the shark, Mr Fanning returned to the ocean off Australia's east coast to surf when he "saw a shadow go through a wave".

"I was like, 'You're kidding me' and I was like, 'Nah, nah, it's just a bird, it's just a bird'," the three-time world champion said.

However, anxious to catch one more wave, Mr Fanning stayed out on the water when he "saw a fin just come up and go through the wave".

"I was just like, 'Are you for real, what's going on here?'" he told the tour's organisers.

The surfer's return to the water was being filmed by an Australian television programme, and he admitted he agreed to take his board out at a spot he normally did not surf.

Despite his experiences, Mr Fanning said he wanted to resume competitive surfing as soon as possible after the attack.

"If you leave it for too long, then your mind starts playing tricks on you," said Mr Fanning. "It makes the situation worse than what it actually is, and so, yeah, I just really wanted to get back out there."