It is the video that everyone is talking about: surfer Mick Fanning filmed fighting off a shark attack in the middle of a competition in South Africa.

The 34-year-old only noticed the animal at the last moment; as terrified spectators looked on from the beach, Mick attempted to paddle away from the fish – only to be dragged off his board. 

Mr Fanning was understandably shaken following the incident, which took place over the weekend. "I just had this instinct that something was behind me," he said afterwards. "And then all of a sudden, I felt like I started getting pulled under water.

"Then the [shark] came up, and I was on my board and it was like right there, and I saw the whole thing thrashing around."

He added: "I was getting dragged under by my leg [rope], and then I felt like it kicked me off, but it was still there, and I was still attached to my board. I felt like it was dragging me under water, and then my leg rope broke, and I started swimming and screaming."

The New South Wales native also explained that he punched the fish in the back in self-defence – an action which might well have saved his life.

The competition was subsequently called off – with Mick and his rival Julian Wilson (who had been battling it out for first place) agreeing to share the prize money.

Here, we bring you everything you need to know about Mick Fanning…


1) Michael Eugene Fanning was born in New South Wales on June 13 1981 – but his parents both hail from Ireland. His dad, John, is originally from Malin Head; he left for Australia in 1970.


2) His nickname is White Lightning – and he is a three-times world champion. He was just four when he first took to the waves on a board. 


3) He is the youngest of five siblings, and Mick and his brother Sean developed a love for surfing together. Tragically, Sean was killed aged 20 in a car accident in 1998. 

Mick now has a tattoo dedicated to his late brother, along with another inking of the Fanning family crest, on his inner left arm. After the weekend's incident in South Africa, his mother, Liz, said she believed Sean was looking out for Mick.


4) Mr Fanning has been married to model Karissa Dalton, 31, for seven years. They started dating more than a decade ago and were engaged on October 17, 2006 when he proposed with a square diamond solitaire ring set in white gold.

He describes Karissa saying 'yes,' as the best moment of his life. They married on March 15, 2008 in Queensland. She now works as an events stylist and planner and the couple share a love of dogs: they currently own a chocolate Lab, Kona, and a black Lab cross, Harper.


5) He trains hard out of the water too – regularly hitting the gym and working up a sweat. "I like being in shape," he's said previously, adding: "I like being able to eliminate my doubts by trusting that my body and mind are up to the challenge.

"If I do lose a heat, I don’t like wondering whether I could have done more to get the result I wanted. That’s why I train."


6) Mick is passionate about protecting the ocean environment – and thinks all surfers should strive to do the same.


7) He badly tore his hamstring in the early stages of his career back in 2004. He subsequently had to have it surgically repaired, but Mick bounced back to become one of the world's greatest surfers.


8) He seriously consider retiring at the end of 2011. "I was over it. I was truly over it. I had injuries and I had a lot on my mind that year," he explained. "It was a tough year personally." 

However, after taking a time-out and surfing less regularly, he reignited his love for the sport – and found he couldn't stay away for long.