Julian Wilson at home in Coolum.
Julian Wilson at home in Coolum. john mccutcheon

He 'never paddled so fast in his life’ says Wilson's mum

THE mother of world tour surfer Julian Wilson says her son was not being heroic when he paddled towards fellow competitor Mick Fanning after he was knocked from his board by a Great White shark in the final of the J-Bay Open in South Africa last night.  

Nola Wilson said her son had done exactly what she would have expected him to do.  

"There was no heroism in his actions," she said.   "It was his mate and at least Julian had a board. He showed no hesitation whatsoever. He's never paddled that fast in his life.  

"Mick was heroic. He hasn't panicked. He's just gone 'thump' and whacked it a couple of times.''  

However Mrs Wilson suspects both her son and Fanning, who was knocked off his board by a great white shark while the pair contested the final of the J-Bay Open, will never be the same again.  

"To have death right in front of you, is a really big thing,'' Nola Wilson said.  

Live coverage which showed the moment Fanning was knocked from his board and Wilson paddling furiously towards him has attracted world wide media attention.  

RELATED: Mick Fanning's shark scare: "I saw the thing thrashing"

In interviews immediately after the incident Wilson said when he saw a wave pass over Fanning he thought that had been the end of him.  

"It came up, and he was wrestling it, and I saw the whole thing, then I saw he got knocked off his board, and then like a little wave popped up and I just thought, he's gone, he's gone under," Wilson said through tears after the incident.  

"I felt like I couldn't get there quick enough."   This morning, still in pyjamas, Mrs Wilson fielded constant calls about the incident.  

She'd watched Julian's first wave in the final, the winner of which would move to the top of the world tour rankings. But disappointed that backwash had knocked her son from his board, cruelling an almost certain nine point-plus score, she'd turned off the television to calm her nerves and missed the unprecedented footage.  

"The phone rang and it was Seb (one of her three sons) saying 'mum, did you see that'.  

"I'm going 'Oh my God'. I was in flipping out mode, I knew what had happened but still hadn't seen it."  

With husband Mick away on a surfing trip she rang another son Bart in California.  

"He went 'mum, take a breath, it only got tangled in Mick's leg rope'," Mrs Wilson said.   "Bart said he was going for a surf to see if there were any sharks out the front. I could have killed him."  

Would you paddle toward a mate if they were being attacked by a shark?

This poll ended on 23 July 2015.

Current Results

Yes of course! It's human nature to help others in trouble


No way, Coolum surfer Julian Wilson was crazy to do that


Not sure. You can never know how you'll react until you're in that situation


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

In the end Jenny Hing, a close friend and mother of rising young surfer Kai Hing finished night shift at the Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital and drove to Nola's Coolum home to show her how to retrieve replays of the incident. Mrs Wilson said sharks had never been a topic of conversation in the surfing family's house.  

"They're part and parcel of the whole thing," she said.   "Julian was at water level. He saw the attack and was paddling like hell to reach Mick. A wave came up between them and Julian expected to come over it to see Mick gone. He was watching him swimming expecting to see him pulled under water.  

"The relief they must have felt being picked up by the boat. They've gone from hell to heaven in seconds. There will be a huge emotional impact."  



Andrea O'Brien: Glad you're all in one piece Mick. Felt for Julian. The poor guy was beside himself with grief recounting the moment he thought you were a goner. I think this calls for a few bevvies at the pub and maybe a change of jocks?!

Debbie Polley: Amazing, incredible and sooooo scary! Glad he's okay.

Mishell Lewis: Incredible footage big fin it was a close call.

Cheridyn Bennett: Why in hell do they run a surf comp there then?! Are the trying to kill the best surfers in the world?

Lesly Williams: Glad you're okay, Mick.


COOLUM surfer Julian Wilson raced to his fellow competitor Mick Fanning's aid when the surfer was attacked by a shark in South Africa. 

Wilson and Fanning were competing at the J-Bay Open in Jeffreys Bay, Johannesburg yesterday when a shark attacked Fanning. 

Wilson swam to Fanning's aid, thinking he could hit the shark with his surf board, he told the World Surf League website.

"I'm just happy he's alive," Wilson said. "I literally thought, paddling for him, that I wasn't going to get there in time."

An emotional Wilson said he thought he was too late when he came over a wave and saw Fanning's board was going in one direction and he was swimming in another.

"I was like, 'oh no, it's going to just grab him and take him under'," he said.

Jet skis and boats came to the pair's rescue and helped Fanning and Wilson back to shore. 

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