John Fanning has called for pro surfers to be given more protection following his son’s lucky escape from a shark attack in South Africa.
Donegal-born John – who lives in north-west Sydney – knew nothing of his son Mick’s dramatic encounter with two sharks during the JBay Open in Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape Province until he received a call late last night.
“Mick called me at half past twelve last night,” John told the Irish Echo. “I hadn’t a clue what had happened.”
“He’s good. He was a bit shaken last night. I tried to ring him this morning but his phoned is switched off. There’s an eight-hour time difference to South Africa. He might be asleep,” he said. “He’ll probably be back within the week.”
John Fanning said he hoped that the incident provided a wake-up call for the sport’s administrators to step up safety protocols for the surfers.
“It shouldn’t happen in this day and age with the amount of gear they have. He was very lucky. He’s a lucky young man,” he said.
The Fanning family have had their fair share of tragedy.
Twenty years ago, Mick’s older brother Sean was killed in a car accident at the age of 20.
The surfer has the name Sean tattooed on his left arm in Gaelic script with the Fanning family crest in memory of his brother.
The youngest of five siblings, Mick developed a passion for surfing after moving from Penrith to the NSW town of Ballina and then to the Gold Coast as a child.
He is a three-time surfing world champion and was included in the Irish Echo’s list of the Top 100 Irish Australians of all time.