Mick Fanning: Surfer who survived shark attack to retire in April

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Surfer Mick Fanning: "I punched the shark in the back"

Many would have excused surfer Mick Fanning if he had decided to call it a day after being attacked by a shark.

Yet almost three years on, that moment has only just arrived for the three-time world champion, who has announced he will retire in April.

The Australian was famously chased by a shark through the waters of Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, escaping only after punching it.

"I need a fresh challenge" is a common phrase among retiring sportsmen and women - indeed, it is what 36-year-old Fanning has planned for the future, although he is yet to reveal any further details.

Near-death experience

Fanning's near-miss in July 2015 attracted worldwide attention.

Competing on the Eastern Cape, Fanning was knocked into the water when a shark approached his board.

"I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth," he told Fox Sports.

He was able to startle the shark by "punching" its back, enough to ward it off.

Fanning escaped without injury and the tournament was called off soon afterwards.

He only returned to the sport full-time in 2017 after reducing his schedule following the attack.

A new chapter

Fanning will end his professional career at the iconic Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, choosing the famous break on the Victoria coast to bow out of the World Surf League tour.

It was there he burst on to the surfing scene as a 19-year-old wildcard entrant in 2001, winning the first of his four Bells crowns.

The son of Irish parents, Fanning took up the sport as a five-year-old, going on to win the 2007, 2009 and 2013 World Tour titles.

He missed out on a fourth in 2015 shortly after the death of his brother.

"I still love the game but can't find the motivation and dedication required to compete for World Titles anymore," Fanning wrote on Facebook.

"I'm looking forward to evolving my own surfing in new ways, visiting unfamiliar places and taking on different experiences."

His retirement means he will miss the opportunity to surf in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, when the sport will make its Olympic debut.

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