A surfing competition in South Africa was canceled after the surfer Mick Fanning, a three-time world champion, fought off a shark attack on live television during the program's opening minutes. He escaped the water with another competitor, Julian Wilson, shaken but physically unharmed.
The World Surf League canceled the competition, the J-Bay Open, and said in a statement that Fanning and Wilson, both finalists, had agreed to split the prize money and each receive second-place points. The competition is the sixth stop on the World Surf League's Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.
"We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today," the World Surf League said in a statement. "Mick's composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic, and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable - they are truly world class at what they do."
Video of the event posted to YouTube by the World Surf League shows Fanning holding his surfboard and swimming in deep water when a shark fin suddenly appears next to him. His head whipped to the side in a panic before he disappeared under the waves.
Somebody yelled over a loudspeaker, "Get out of there immediately! Get out of there now!" Moments later three rescue vehicles, including jet skis, rushed toward Fanning, and he climbed onto the back of one of them. He flashed his rescuers a thumbs-up.
"That's one of the dangers of professional surfing," said one of the television announcers. Another described the episode as like "nothing ever seen before" in the sport.
In a brief video interview posted to Twitter by the World Surf League, a rattled Fanning repeatedly described himself as "tripping."
"I'm totally fine. I've got nothing wrong with me," he said. "There's a small depression in my board and my leg rope got bitten. I'm just, like, totally tripping out."
Wilson told an interviewer from the World Surf League that he feared Fanning was not going to survive the attack. When he remembered the rescue boats were nearby, "we both started screaming," he said.
Renato Hickel, an official with the Association of Surfing Professionals, told the World Surf League that Fanning was attacked by two sharks, not just the one visible on video.
"This is the first time in professional surfing history - you know I never experienced and nobody ever experienced a situation like that, where a surfer is attacked by two sharks right when a final starts," said Hickel, according to the World Surf League video.
Speaking to a reporter from inside a rescue boat, Fanning, who appeared both emotionally rattled and exhilarated, described his brief battle with the shark.
"I was just sitting there. I was just about to just start moving and then I felt something grab or get stuck in my leg rope and I instantly just jumped away, and then it just kept coming at my board and I just kept kicking and screaming," Fanning said. "I just saw fins, I didn't see teeth, but I was waiting for the teeth to come at me."
Asked if he got any punches in, he replied with a laugh, "I punched it in the back."