JEFFREYS BAY, South Africa, July 19 (UPI) -- The 2015 J-Bay pro surfing championship in South Africa was quite the nail-biter Sunday. But not for what was happening on the waves.
Rather, it was the potentially deadly spectacle unfolding beneath the surface.
It started when Australian pro surfer Mick Fanning, the tournament's defending champion, was suddenly distracted from the competition by a shark coming straight at him. The surfer said he tensed up after spotting the creature, which got so close it became entangled in his surfboard's leash.
"I was just sitting there and I felt something just get stuck in my leg rope, and I was kicking trying to get it away," Fanning said in a BBC News report Sunday. "Instantly, I just jumped away, and then it just kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming."
Fanning then expressed the terror that abruptly engulfed him during what should have been a thrilling competition.
"I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth to come at me while I was swimming," he added, taking heavy breaths during an interview moments later with Fox Sports Australia.
Fanning was knocked off his surfboard and into the sea off the eastern cape of South Africa -- the very same waters where another surfer was killed by a Great White shark two years ago.
As the event was being broadcast live, Fanning's near-miss was captured on video.
The dramatic footage shows Fanning at the moment he is visibly startled by something, quickly followed by a shot of the shark's fin directly behind him amid splashing water. A clearly rattled and panic-stricken Fanning then jumps on his surfboard and frantically begins to paddle away.
"You see a little splash," one of the broadcast commentators said upon seeing the commotion.
"Holy (expletive)!" he added upon learning that disturbance was kicked up by a shark. "Fanning needing some assistance."
The sea surrounding Jeffreys Bay is among the most shark-infested waters in the world.
Fanning said he attempted to scare the extant macropredatory fish away by punching it on its back and kicking at it with his feet. It was that close.
The other tournament finalist, Australia's Julian Wilson, was also in the water at the time of the scare. Both men were picked up by jet-ski and taken to shore without injury. The tournament was called off at that point.
It wasn't reported initially exactly what type of shark targeted Fanning -- but the World Surf League, which organizes the competition, said he was actually approached by two sharks.