We can learn so much more than bravery from Mick Fanning’s shark attack.

With the images of Mick Fanning’s terrifying shark attack fresh in the world’s eyes, no one can deny the sheer horror of what we witnessed and what will be hard to forget. As his manager, Ronnie Blakey said, “I was thinking we’re watching a three-time world champion die. That was the reality of the situation,” he said. “At worst I thought if he isn’t dead maybe he’s lost a limb.” Few of us will ever unsee that footage, nor unhear the screams from the crowds of the beaches, and the frantic voice of the commentator desperate to get help to the two men in the water.

But in the aftermath of this terrifying ordeal, shaken, the world watched as this brave man graciously and quietly acknowledged his horror.

There are many lessons that boys, young men, and their parents, can learn from his response. And I don’t mean, “What’s the best way to fight a shark” kind of lessons, but rather by watching Mick’s honest and personal response to the attack, they can learn that it’s ok to not be ok. And that it’s ok, to share with others, to not put up a front, and to accept that there are some things in life that you need help with, and that couldn’t and shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. As Mick said, “Mentally I’m a bloody mess, but I’ll come good in time.”

Because for Mick, there was no bravado, there was no chest thumping or “F*&#k me!” or “pass me a beer, and then another”. Instead there was a quiet willingness to share his emotions and to display the terror of what he encountered publicly, generously including the world audience in his experience, understanding that we were part of this, even from the comfort of our lounge rooms.

Mick could have disappeared from the cameras, curled up in a ball and been comforted by his people, and this probably happened after the cameras stopped rolling. But for that moment, he included us, we were able to empathise with him, he was present.

I have three sons. My eldest is a teenager. It can be really tough to be a teenager. But to be able to watch a champion and a role model respond so selflessly and share so much of himself and his raw emotions is so inspirational. I truly aspire for my boys to be so comfortable with themselves that they too can be like this (but without the shark attack bit, dear god, without the shark attack!).

And there was a whole other sub story that we witnessed that day, and it’s all about mate-ship. Because unbelievably during the attack, with their lives at risk, two friends swam towards each other – one to protect, the other to save. There was no rescue crafts (at that point), there was only the unwavering knowledge that they needed to help each other, and for fellow surfer and competitor Julian Wilson and Mick Fanning, their display of love and determination is equally the hero in this story.

Out of the water his friends surrounded him in shock and love, trying to comfort away the memory of what had just happened, to hold him close, and to feel the fear of what his loss would have felt like.

I want my boys to be a friend like this, and to be the kind of people who have friends like Mick and Julian – who care, who embrace, who are there for each other.

So thank you Mick, in your moment of horror, you have inspired many boys to grow into men, just like yourself. You have given many of us watching a lesson that no matter who you are or what you do, you can still be scared, you can still cry and you still need your friends.

I’m happy for my son’s to learn this lesson, and even though he may be a world titleholder, Mick Fanning is a hero out of the water as well as in.

What lesson would you want your children to learn from Mick Fanning?

Main image courtesy of Getty Images.

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  • We all do what we have to do at the time in a stressful situation.


  • All true. But I keep remembering the camera man everyone forgot and left in the water.


  • he respects and embraces the majesty of the ocean and all creatures that live in it – it is the level or risk he deems acceptable. Love his ethos


  • Wow! That’s a good article! Thanks for sharing this!


  • He was so lucky! I think it’s more luck than bravery when up against a shark. Instinct kicks in and you whatever to save yourself or your loved ones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work


  • hmmmmm positivty goes a long way…good luck


  • Everyone reacts to disasters differently, and the added pressure of TV cameras would not have been easy. It is inspiring to see a notable person not afraid to express emotion and not put on an act but acknowledge events. This is not the end of his journey, and I wish him all the best.


  • our sons can learn from mick fanning what a shark attack


  • and the bravery of his mate who paddled out to him, that was inspiring.


  • Love and kindness is very important.


  • surfing i like watching


  • Great read.


  • Yes it is truly a good lesson for the young ones.


  • oh that would be sooo scary


  • My nephew was attacked 3 weeks prior too Mick Fannings encounter. He is a 19yr old teenager that showed calm and strength beyond his years while being rescued. This happened on the same coast line and I can’t understand why the media failed to mention this and not to mention 24hrs later in the same waters a 20 yr old got attacked and lost his right leg. If you follow this boy on Facebook you will be astounded at his bravery strength positivity after all he has been through.
    Dylan Reddering got horrific leg injuries but when he heard Caleb Swanepoel lost his leg he realised how lucky he actually was and asked everybody to stop giving him attention and give Caleb all the love and support. They both remain so positive after their ordeals. but we all know that emotionally and mentally these things can come creeping up on you. And we must let them know it’s ok to show emotions and fear. Great story and thanks for sharing.
    Dylan ironically met Mick Fanning 10 yrs ago when he won JBay Open that year and to think they both now have a story to tell . We actually bumped into Mick at the airport on the way back to Australia and chatted to him about Dylan and Caleb. Showed him pics of his injuries and how lucky he was. Mick obviously had a huge audience because of his surfing status but these boys don’t and the Caleb Swanepoel Community on FB is raising funds for him to get a prosthetic leg. He needs R1.4 mil in South Africa. The two boys have also been in contact which helps.

    • I believe that the Mick Fanning’s attack received so much attention was because it was all captured on video.. everyone watched in horror and it played out in front of our eyes.
      All my prayers, thoughts and wishes for future well being and love go out to Caleb and Dylan as well as all who have suffered horrific injuries. There certainly are many stories of bravery/courage that we seldom hear about and it’s these people and stories that make this world wonderful.


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