Mick Fanning's mum: 'I thought we'd lost him'

Mick Fanning's mum: 'I thought we'd lost him'

Mick Fanning's mum says she thought she'd lost her son as she watched him live on TV being attacked by a shark.

Elizabeth Osborne feared the worst as the Australian surfer fought off the predator during a competition in South Africa.

Waiting for a wave, Fanning's first of the final was almost his last. There was a struggle, and then the triple world champion disappeared from view.

"I started getting pulled underwater, and then the thing came up and it was right there, and the whole thing was just thrashing around," he says. "I was getting dragged under by the leg rope."

Watching the action live from her Gold Coast home was Fanning's mother. She had lost one son in a car crash - was she about to lose another?

"I just couldn't believe what I was seeing, really," she says. "I saw this big fin and then Mick scrambling and turning around, and then he went down and I realised then it must be a shark attack. I was terrified. I thought we'd lost him."

Fanning escaped by punching the shark.

"I had this thought, 'What happens if it comes for another go at me?' So I just turned around so I could see it coming, and then before I knew it the boat was there and the jet skis were there."

Helping too was fellow Aussie finalist Julian Wilson.

"He's gone under and I felt like I couldn't get there quick enough," says Wilson.

Kiwi competitor Ricardo Christie was one of several professional surfers to express their shock. He wrote on Facebook: "We know those powerful creatures are there watching our feet from below."

He says surfers "push the fear aside, as our love for surfing and our ocean is greater than the risk of this nightmare occurring".

Kiwi shark expert Andrew Christie watched the video. He said the shark's approach was fast so it likely meant business.

"The shark was predatory," he says. "The animal was looking for some food. He was investigating whether that surfer was food."

Mr Christie's advice to ward off a shark attack is if fleeing fails, do a Fanning and punch or poke the shark - preferably in the eye or gills.

"Don't give up," says Mr Christie. "What else do you do? You've just got to keep fighting. Are you just going to lie there and roll over and let it all happen? No, fight."

As for Fanning, he says he's okay, "just tripping out".

Fanning has said he'd be happy never to compete again. His mum's not convinced.

"We never give up and we never give in. That's our motto, really."

It's something the three-time world champion has proved today.

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