Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Elisha Fieldstadt

A three-time world champion surfer had a close encounter with a shark during a competition in South Africa on Sunday — and the dramatic ordeal was captured on live television.

Australian surfer Mick Fanning fended off an attack and escaped the tense confrontation unscathed. But the scare led organizers of the J-Bay Open in Eastern Cape to cancel the finals.

In terrifying footage broadcast on live TV, Fanning can be seen fighting to stay on his board as the shark thrashes violently in the water. The World Surf League initially said two sharks were involved but later revised the number.

Rescuers quickly responded to the scene. Fanning and another finalist, Julian Wilson, were brought to shore by boat, according to the World Surf League.

"I punched it in the back," Fanning told a reporter after the scary incident, which happened at about 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET).

The World Surf league canceled the competition hours after the attack.

"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," it said in a statement.

Second place points and prize money will be split between Fanning and Wilson, World Surf League commissioner Kieren Perrow said.

Perrow said the finalists were not concerned with the affect the decision would have on the standings. "I think both of them weren’t thinking about the points or the prize money at all,” Perrow said.

Mick Fanning of Tweed Heads, New South Wales, Australia (pictured) winning his Round 3 heat at the JBay Open at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, 14 July 2015.KELLT CESTARI/WSL / EPA

“I’m happy to not even compete ever again,” Fanning told a reporter after he was brought back to the safety of the beach by a boat. "I just want to let all my family and friends know, I’m okay," he said. "I’m just tripping out."

Wilson, who watched the struggle unfold, said he was afraid his fellow competitor wasn't going to make it out of the water alive.

"I was like, 'He’s going under.' I felt like I couldn’t get there quick enough,” Wilson said. "I’m just happy that he’s alive."