At home watching the coverage of the finals of the World Surf League event in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa last year, Elizabeth Osborne was horrified to see her son Mick Fanning fight for his life after he was knocked off his board by a shark, likely a great white.
“I was straight up on my feet and over the television,” she told WHO at the time, “hoping I could pull him out.”
This year, the champ’s mother is leaving nothing to chance.
“I was determined that I wasn’t going to watch it on television,” Osborne tells WHO from the beachfront guesthouse she is sharing with Fanning at Jeffreys Bay.
“When you are here it’s not so scary. If anything goes wrong you feel you can run down the beach and run in and paddle out. ”
So far, Osborne has managed to stay dry, with Fanning, 35, making it through relatively unscathed (he rolled an ankle during a warm-up surf) to the quarterfinals of this year’s event.
After an emotional year—his brother Peter died in December and his marriage to wedding publication CEO Karissa Dalton ended—Fanning announced in February his decision to take leave from the 2016 world title campaign. Still, the three-time world champ resolved to return to J-Bay.
“I feel like there’s something there I want to go and face,” he said in February.
Osborne, who lives in Tweed Heads, NSW, is taking comfort in extra safety measures this year.
“They have increased the security,” she tells WHO. “They have sonar technology on every jet ski and there is a spotter plane going up and down the beach all the time looking ahead.” Not to mention a keen pair of maternal eyes. “Look, I am feeling confident,” says Osborne. “But of course, yes, I will tell you the truth: I will be watching the water.”
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