21 Jul 2015

Surfers to decide on Jeffreys Bay

7:38 pm on 21 July 2015

The world's top surfers will play a key role in deciding whether the world championship returns to South Africa's Jeffreys Bay next year following a shark attack..

This year's event final was cancelled after three-time world champion Mick Fanning was accosted by a shark early in the decider against fellow Australian Julian Wilson.

Fanning was unhurt after wrestling with the shark for several seconds before rescue crews got him to safety.

Surfer Mick Fanning is hunted by a great white shark in South Africa.

Surfer Mick Fanning is hunted by a great white shark in South Africa. Photo: World Surf League

World Surf League (WSL) chief executive Paul Speaker said any decision over whether to abandon Jeffreys Bay would be largely in the hands of competitors.

"The way the commissioner's office is set up is the governing body can't select, nor change, the tour footprint, the locations that we go to without the input of the surfers," Speaker told AAP.

"What we need to do over the next couple of days, couple of weeks and couple of months is decompress a little bit, have conversations that are productive around where we go and what we do.

"We'll be doing that in the next couple of weeks and certainly when we're in Tahiti and we're all together make those decisions then.

"I don't have an answer now on J-Bay next year and nor do we need to, it's a schedule that's done later on in the year."

Speaker said he could not recall an incident where a surfer had been attacked by a shark during a competitive heat of the world tour and praised both Fanning and Wilson for their heroic actions.

Sufer Mick Fanning competing before the shark attack.

Surfer Mick Fanning who is likely to be among those who get a say on whether the WSL returns to Jeffrey's Bay. Photo: World Surf League

He also said the onsite safety team had proven its worth with the quick extraction of both men from the water.

Speaker said he wasn't aware of any sightings of sharks earlier in the day, although he did believe there had been sightings earlier in the week.

He said every event, including the three events in Australia, were managed to try and minimise the risk to competitors.

"The number one thing for us as it relates to safety is to make sure our water safety individuals are trained to be the best in the world and I believe they are," he said.

"They're a collection of individuals that are trained in Hawaii, they're trained in Australia, they're trained in Fiji, Tahiti and California.

"As it relates to event-by-event, certainly there's characteristics of locations that we go to that have deeper risks in certain areas ... It's an unpredictable ocean.

"The ocean is a wonderful, beautiful place but at times it can also be violent and we co-exist with sharks. It's something we take very seriously and it's just a reality of the sport."

Speaker also said the WSL would invest in whatever technologies it needed to ensure it remained "best in class" when it came to safety in the water.