For whatever reason, I’ve been more emotional than usual the last week or two. I feel like I’ve been on the verge of tears at times. For no reason. Just highly volatile. A good inspirational Nike commercial will get me to well up and I’ll have to walk away. No chance at watching movies. People have told me all the astrological reasons and I’m sure that’s part of it. And all weekend it continued. I was kicked out of the ocean by a lightning storm in CA in July. Literally forced to come in by both my own conscious and lifeguards. A man walked in front of a train near my house and I unknowingly witnessed the cleanup and the air went heavy again. But yesterday, after watching Mick Fanning’s encounter with a shark on a live webcast at a wave we’ve all surfed or dreamed to surf, during a final — I popped.
I re-watched the whole thing a million times, looking at every detail, every perfect body movement by Mick (and goddamn he was on point), the commentators reaction, Julian paddling his ass off toward Mick. The boats. The crowd. Every aspect of the ordeal analyzed with hungover, emotional eyes. And then once the emotional interviews went down, and Mick and Kelly started welling up, followed by Julian’s emotional recount, that was it. I cried too.
I was in South Africa all of May, surfing “sharkier” waves than J-Bay with my best friends. Then we went to J-Bay and surfed it too. It was firing. Best memories of our lives for sure. But I’m now forced to think back to all those post-surf beers and chats about how “sharky” it is and how safe you feel on land wearing shoes and socks and it’s all laughs and tough talk. But to hear Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson do it, after an actual incident feels extremely fucking real. I’m personally thinking about all the lonely wide paddle arounds I did at J-Bay and how haunted they feel. It is ALWAYS in your head there. And you’re really at the mercy of planet earth and the fauna, just hoping it doesn’t happen to you or anyone ever. But it does. And to see it happen the way it happened is and will always be one of the most surreal things we’ll ever witness.
I also think I need to applaud the WSL for the way they covered and handled it all. Probably the first time they actually showed that they are people and not just aloha-shirted robots saying slogans. Pottz spoke for us all when he said, “Holy shit…” live on the air as he watched in horror at the impossible thing unfolding before him. And “Holy shit” is what 100 percent of us said and still are saying. And while now we can get into topics like whether it should be labeled an “attack” or an “encounter” or whatever the conservationists and scientist want to do with that is all fine now, because we all got to keep our family members in tact.
As for the post-game on the boys: Mick and Julian handled it both like professionals and people, a combination I wish we saw more of during competitive broadcasts. But at this stage, that all means nothing. I just don’t care. The only thing that means anything is that they’re all flying home safe (hopefully first class with oodles and oodles of Champagne for winning the heat of a lifetime) and hopefully we all had a good cry together. And it’s probably going to take a few minutes before we decide what’s next. —Travis