Surfing-Australia’s shark-punching Fanning to come out of retirement again

Fanning of Australia, who survived a shark attack, reacts during a media conference in Sydney
FILE PHOTO: Mick Fanning of Australia, who survived a shark attack, reacts during a media conference in Sydney, Australia July 21, 2015. A visibly shaken Fanning arrived home in Australia on Tuesday saying he would not turn his back on surfing despite needing a "miracle" to survive a shark attack off the coast of South Africa at the weekend. REUTERS/David Gray

March 29, 2022

(Reuters) – Australia’s Mick Fanning, a triple world champion who grabbed international headlines by escaping a shark attack by punching the animal, will make another return to professional surfing four years after he announced his retirement.

The 40-year-old will compete at Bells Beach next month after receiving a wildcard for the event, which is the fourth stop on the World Surf League 2022 Championship Tour.

“Bells is the wildcard I really wanted,” Fanning, who made a brief return to the pro tour at the Narrabeen Classic last year, said in a statement.

“Obviously, I did Narrabeen last year but Bells is the one I was aiming for. It’s a place that’s close to my heart, and if I was ever going to take a wildcard, it would be there, so I’m pretty fired up.

“I really like the wave at Bells. The speed of it, the wide open canvas, and the fact that it’s a right hand point break. I love everything that comes with Bells, the history, the cliffs, the gathering of everyone down in the car park.”

Fanning won world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2013 but is also remembered for his encounters with two sharks in three years at the J-Bay Open.

He was dragged off his board and had to punch a great white to escape before being helped from the water in South Africa in 2015 live on TV, the footage of the attack was viewed millions of times on YouTube. Another encounter two years later saw him being plucked to safety.

The Australian surfing icon, nicknamed ‘White Lightning’ had officially retired in 2018.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry)