On Sunday evening, cameras at a world championship surfing event in South Africa honed in on Australian surfer Mick Fanning. In the terrifying 16 seconds that followed, it appeared that a shark got caught up in his leg rope, dragged Fanning around a little bit, before darting away from him (arguably as confused and worried as Fanning himself). Fanning wasn’t injured, bitten, nor grazed, though according to every media outlet ever to grace this planet, what went down was a harrowing/terrifying/shocking attack.
But more than that, it was a reminder of how evil sharks are.
There are few things more terrifying than a shark attacking its prey. According to experts, many sharks come at speeds of more than 40kmph (from underneath) and execute in a precise manner, thanks mostly to their extraordinary senses. Though in Fanning’s case, the shark is seen swimming around on the surface moments prior, then bumping on and off the Australian for a few seconds, before getting the fuck out of there. Do not be confused: there’s a high chance that had that shark wanted to wrap his jaws around any part of Fanning, he would have done so.
The concern is that a high profile incident like this will be misconstrued to reinvigorate the war on sharks, and be used as a vessel to justify cullings, shark nets and the various other heartless processes we’ve put in place thanks to a few unjustly terrified voices. So let’s take this undoubtedly scary moment for what it is, and nothing more.
Our thoughts are with Mick Fanning and the entire surfing community. Witnessing something as confronting as this doesn’t come without burden, but let’s channel our anxiety and cautiousness rather than letting it spill into realms that are ethically wrong. It’s obvious the problems won’t arise in the surfing community – surfers know they are playing in the shark’s realm – but the media have a tendency to twist things in their favour, and a collective voice can stop that.