GARY 'Kong' Elkerton couldn't believe what he was watching when surfer Mick Fanning was attacked by a great white shark during the final of the Jeffreys Bay Open in South Africa.
The former three-time world number two surfer said while he had seen great white sharks when he had been surfing at Jeffreys Bay, he had never seen such a close call.
"It reminded me of when I was watching 9/11, it was just so surreal," he said.
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"I knew exactly what was going on but it took a little while for it to sink in that it had actually happened."
Kong said he had seen hundreds of sharks while surfing, but nothing as scary as what Fanning experienced.
"I grew up surfing, travelling the east coast of Australia and around the world, and I've probably seen more sharks than most people," he said.
Glad to know this guy and even happier that he swam/walked away unscathed. The only mark on him is a tiny scratch (probably from hitting the shark) on his left hand knuckle. I got an email from a friend tonight who said he clearly saw a shark figure in a wave during the quarterfinals from a drone shot. There were multiple water photogs (including @jimmicane who shot this photo) swimming all day. I believe good things come to good people and although you can't say this was 'good', the outcome was amazing. @mfanno's instincts kicked into high gear and his scramble to face the shark and keep the board between them may have saved him. The scariest moment was when he turned around to face where the shark would be coming from after swimming 20 meters towards shore. I can't even imagine the vulnerability he must've felt. Great job by the contest announcers, water safety for getting right on it, @julian_wilson for paddling to help a friend out and basically everyone there to support. Hey, you didn't surf half bad this week either! #GiveHimTheTrophy!
"About seven years ago we went down in one of those shark cages off South Africa, so I have seen them up close."
After seeing many great whites in the ocean, Kong said he believed their behaviour was different to all other sharks.
"Out of all the sharks I have seen in the ocean and how they swim and how they look at you, there's really nothing like a great white," he said.
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"There is nothing like them in they ocean; they are the number one predators."
Still a frequent surfer, the Ocean Shores resident said he believed shark numbers had grown dramatically.
"Since they stopped culling sharks they have really multiplied right around the world," Kong said.
"They definitely have more intrigue about us because their food chain has gone downhill as we overfish the oceans.
"So having more sharks and more surfers and the sharks being more intrigued, I think the writing's on the wall, really."
After the attack, Kong said he called Gold Coast-based pro surfer Bede Durbidge.
"Bede had spoken to Mick and said he's pretty shaken up," he said.
"What we saw after the attack from Mick was a lot of shock and adrenaline mixed together."
What saved Fanning's life, in Kong's opinion, was his legrope.
"If the nose of that shark didn't go into his legrope it probably would have given him a bit of a nibble," he said.
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