Hero is a term we use a lot in sport. Not always deservingly. But today it is.
Of all the places to find a role model for young men – someone oozing pride, humility, vulnerability and exceptional courage, professional surfing wasn’t the first place I would have looked. Or the second. Nothing against pro surfers, of course. It’s what we all wanted to be from the age of twelve after getting our first boards from the Trading Post and Crystal Cylinders t-shirts from my grandparents.
It’s just that, from the outside anyway, the whole surfing thing doesn’t seem to be about spiritual, beautiful men in touch with their emotions. I mean, surfing’s certainly spiritual, and often beautiful, but there seems to be a certain bravado around the sport as well. “Surf thirty foot waves? Fully sic, Bra! Epic and all that, eh!”
So to see the reaction from Mick Fanning after his shark attack at J Bay was almost as surprising as it was to see a shark turn up behind him and grab hold of his legrope.
WATCH the moment Mick Fanning escaped a shark attack:
I was certainly surprised by his reaction, but mainly in that I expected he’d have a far more larriken-esque response to what happened. Why? No idea really. It’s a stereotype, isn’t it? Not just of surfers, but of lots of sports people. The expectation is that they’ll walk (or swim) away from combat and trot out the old, well worn clichés about what’d just happened. How the boys had done a good job and we wouldn’t have been in a position to win if everyone hadn’t pulled together. Boys, did good, you know. And all that! Good boys. Love the boys. The boys really smashed it.
But Fanning was different.