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J-Bay Open suspended after shark attack

Mick Fanning was in the Indian Ocean taking part in the J-Bay Open finals when he was attacked by a shark.

Youtube screengrab of Australian surfer Mick Fanning being chased by a shark at the J-Bay Open on 19 July, 2015.

CAPE TOWN - The J-Bay Open surfing competition has been suspended following a shark encounter. Video footage of Australian surfer Mick Fanning's encounter with a white shark has gone viral today.

Fanning was in the Indian Ocean taking part in the J-Bay Open finals when the incident took place.

Spectator Jeff Ayliffe describes what happened.

"What appeared to be a white shark attacked Mick Fanning from behind, bumped him off the board and there was a little bit of uncertainty, a little bit of chaos and it appears though, according to Mick Fanning, that the shark was caught in its leash."

Fanning was unharmed and was immediately fished out of the water by safety crews.

Speaking after the incident, Fanning described his ordeal.

"I felt like I just had to start moving and get going, like just start peddling again. And all of a sudden I just had this instinct that something was behind me and all of a sudden I felt my stomach get pulled under water and then the thing came up and I was on my board and it was like right there. I saw the whole thing just thrashing around."

The World Surf League has described Fanning's quick thinking in the face of a terrifying situation as nothing short of heroic.

The final heat had only just started when the three-time world champion was thrown off his board and into the water by a shark.

Fanning and fellow Australian Julian Wilson, who was also in the water, were picked up by boats and taken to safety.

"It felt like a punch couple of times and then it was dragging me, I felt like it was dragging me under water and then all of a sudden my leg rope broke and I just started swimming and screaming."

The J-Bay Open was called off for the day.

Meanwhile, the footage sent Twitter into a frenzy:

Sharks are in the lineup. @Mick_Fanning is OK. The #JBayOpen Final is on STANDBY http://t.co/Kq8bZ5eIA7 http://t.co/FusEoR2EHM

Shark at #JBayOpen. Thankfully, Mick Fanning is unharmed. https://t.co/Y20L1PpTMD

" @wsl: Exclusive interview with @Mick_Fanning after the #JBayOpen shark attack. Full story: http://t.co/FY3LLJUKsm http://t.co/SRJtG2UjS7"

Shark attack on @mick_fanning during the final in Jbay . I cannot believe you're ok brother WOW… https://t.co/KjMVlrM8rq