As part of the core surf media, this has been a difficult one to deal with. It has felt like such a huge, momentous ordeal that no amount of coverage is enough. This is the most intense event to take in our sport, ever – and probably one of the most intense events to take place in sport, ever.
But this afternoon, Mick and Julian did a one-off press conference (per their request) in Sydney. They both said their piece, and from what we can tell, they aren’t going to talk about this to the public again for quite some time. They want to go back to normal life.
We’ll tell you what was said at the conference, and then, we think, it’s time for us to go back to normal life too.
Because if we can’t move on, what makes us think that Mick and Julian, ever will?
The following is a transcript from a press conference in Sydney that took place at 2:30 this afternoon. No questions included, because they just aren’t important.
Mick: You know, you’re so thankful to have people that will go out of their way to put themselves in harms way to look out for you. I don’t know if I would have made it back to shore if the boats and Jules didn’t come out so quickly. The sharks probably got scared off from all that.
I’ll never know for sure, but I guess someone was looking out for me. To walk away from a shark attack with not a scratch on you is a miracle, really. I had dinner with a guy who’d been attacked three times, and you just don’t know – you count your lucky stars and if there is someone looking out for us up there, thanks!
The first internal fight I jumped on for my trip home, I was sitting next to a lady and she opened up the newspaper, and it was the front page. She asked if it was me, and I saw the photo and all the emotions came back and tears started running down my face. I had to look out the window and work myself up to reading it. Once we were on the big bird home, the boys and I had a chat and sort of decompressed, and that got us to a place where we were tired enough to get to sleep before dinner came around.
Mick and Renato – two absolute legends. Photo: WSL
I’ve watched the footage a few times. Watching and talking about it with people… I find that always helps a lot more than anything else. So to be able to see exactly what happened and put my thoughts into what happened, and talk through it with people, that’s been really helpful.
You know, I’m definitely not a superhero. I just tried to move and do what anyone else would do in that situation – get to safety. It’s very humbling. I’m so thankful that we don’t have anything wrong with us. So thankful that Jules was there, that the water patrol was there. It’s just one of those things where people might say there are lessons to be learnt, and I don’t know what they are right now, but I’m just very lucky. Julian is the superhero. I’m not a superhero.
I’m sure I’ll go surfing again. Surfing has given me so much. It’s something I do to clear my mind, something that gives me peace. And I’m sure I’ll go back out. I’ve been surfing for 30 years, and yeah, we see sharks from a distant. It’s like walking across the street – you never know if you’ll get hit or not. Unluckily, but luckily, that happened.
Julian and his girldfriend, and an embrace they'll never forget. Photo: WSL
But Mick was in that mode where he was either going to tear my head off in the heat, or turn around and fight a Great White. He sensed it was behind him and he fought his way out of it and gave the thing a scare. It’s remarkable that he’s here. I’m so thankful that we have our limbs and we’re healthy and back here and we can actually go surfing again. I’m sure we’ll both continue to do what we love.
I don’t think it’s about me at all. What I saw was just such an amazing moment where I froze and tried to assess the situation, and Mick turned and fought in that second. It could be the thing that gave me the courage to head for him – to see he turned on something that was so much bigger than him. To see him turn around and wrestle it and take to it, I was frozen, but I was in awe – and then as soon as I saw him get knocked off his board and a wave came between us, I had to help him and get there as quick as I can, but I was too far away. But if any award is going to be given, they should all go to Mick. He showed amazing courage and amazing ability to act in the moment. I don’t know how many people could turn around and face that thing. No matter what gets thrown at Mick, he turns around and confronts it.
Photo: WSLMick: We’re in their domain. It’s like if you go to a lion’s cage and jump in – one day your number will come up. I’m just lucky it wasn’t my time.
When it all went down it was sorta happening so fast, but when you’re in that moment it seems like it goes forever. The thing for me was seeing the side of it – that was the scariest thing. It was just, yeah, ok, are we ready for this? If I wasn’t in a contest maybe I wouldn’t have been so centred and in the moment, and maybe that’s a thing to be thankful for too. I would have been talking to friends or playing jokes on people pulling their legropes. Ha, but that’ll never happen again! [laughs]
Once we got back to the Commissioner’s Office – that’s when we watched the footage. It all felt the same as it looked, but I didn’t think the shark was that big when I first saw it. Then I go back and have a look at the fin and tail, and yeah, it was pretty big! [laughs]
I guess I could have kept swimming, but I didn’t know if it would come after me or what, and I didn’t want to swim and be totally defenceless. You want to go down fighting, but it’s a pretty unfair fight.
JBay is such a beautiful place and I’m really sad that it happened there, because it’s in the top three favourite places on earth for me. So many friends and family there, so yeah, I’ve gotta go back. It’ll be hard, but you’ve gotta face these things front on and just deal with it when you come to it.
As I said, surfing has given myself and my family so much. It’s got me through the hardest times in my life, so to turn my back on surfing… it wouldn’t feel right.
To tell you the truth I haven’t really had thought process of what to change. I’m just trying to deal with the emotions and getting it all out there. It’ll probably take a week, or a month, I don’t know. I might have some words of wisdom down the track, but right now it’s just processing and dealing with the emotions. Bottling it up and avoiding it… that doesn’t work for me. I’ve gotta talk.
Julian's one and only wave of the JBay final. Photo: WSL / Kelly CestariJulian: I’ve never taken what we do, or surfing in general, for granted – especially being on the World Tour. The fact that it happened in a final on Tour, in those perfect conditions, surfing against my hero – the way it all unfolded is very surreal and so far from both of our minds. But neither of us takes what we do for granted.
Mick: The parts of the shark that I saw… my board is 19 inches wide and it felt tiny compared to what the shark was. It was just so round. The most vivid part was seeing the main fin, and then the shade of grey turning to white on the side. That’s all I saw.
You never know what you’ll do in that situation, and as I said earlier, Jules gave up all regard for himself and came for me. I was so thankful he was there. It was like a powerboat coming for me. It was so brave and he’s a warrior. Thanks bud.
Julian: I’m just thankful that he didn’t make a mockery of me out there in the lineup, if the heat went on! Haha. Nah. I definitely was there to back him up, and hopefully was able to give him some confidence and courage when he was left without a board in the water. And I know the boats and jetskis got there fast, but it felt like an eternity. If it came back to him when he didn’t have the board, I thought I’d be swimming around searching for him under the water – but it all ended well.
That it did. And that, we think, is the end of our coverage for this story. We’re so glad you’re safe, Mick and Jules.
Now, is it still too soon for jokes?