VIDEO: Shark attacks surfer during J-Bay Open competition in South Africa

Posted at 1:25 PM, Jul 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-20 00:25:31-04

WARNING: This video contains material that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

A surfing competition in South Africa was canceled Sunday after surfer Mick Fanning escaped a shark attack in the opening minutes of the final heat.

Organizers of the J-Bay Open, the sixth stop on the 2015 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League Championship Tour, canceled the remainder of the competition after clearing the waters.

Video of the incident appears to show two sharks circling the three-time World Surf League champion. The Water Safety Team pulled Fanning and fellow competitor Julian Wilson out of the waters.

Fanning made it out of the water unharmed and with a severed leash on his surfboard. Fanning told World Surf League TV that he “punched” the shark “in the back” to scare it away.

“We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today. 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,” WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow said in a statement.

“The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both Finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open. We appreciate the ongoing support we have in South Africa and once again want to express our gratitude to the Water Safety Team.”