Mick Fanning says he has put his dramatic encounter with a great white shark at South Africa’s Jeffreys Bay behind him and is now fully focused on a world title charge.
Returning to competition for the first time since he fought off the large oceanic predator at J-Bay and made headlines around the world, Fanning was calm and controlled in difficult conditions at Teahupo’o.
His heat saw him defeat fellow Australian Adam Melling and Taumata Puhetini as Fanning made the most of a couple of good waves.
“It was great to get back in the singlet and focus on the surfing again,” Fanning said.
“There has been so much hype about the incident at J-Bay, so much media attention and I just wanted to move on – it happened, we can talk about it later… maybe a story when I’m old.”
The story on the opening day at the Billabong Pro Tahiti was that a strong southerly and misty conditions were making the waves choppy with few good barrels to be found and it was a matter of wave selection being key.
Fanning simply felt he was in the right place at the right time.
“It was really tough out there, there weren’t too many opportunities and I lucked out … there with a five and a six and that was good enough.
Currently in a tight race at the top of the world title standing with Brazilian Adriano de Souza and fellow Aussie Julian Wilson, Fanning said he felt confident about his prospects of bagging world title number four.
“I feel pretty confident, there is so much that goes into a world title, you have to be on at all times.
“I guess you just focus on yourself and try and do the right things at the right time.
Wilson, who was in the water with Fanning and attempted to paddle towards the shark and Fanning in the J-Bay lineup also won his first round heat, joining Fanning, Kelly Slater, Owen Wright and Aritz Aranburu in the third round.
While he didn’t win his heat with the same ease as Fanning, Wilson who held priority late into the heat surfed smart in what he also felt were tough conditions, holding off Hawaiian Sebastian Zietz with a 10.66 score to Zietz’s 9.00.
“When the sets come they are good but there’s not many off them,” Wilson said.
“You just have to hope you’re in rhythm with those sets and you can get a bit of a barrel, it’s pretty slim pickings.”