Fanning recovery 'will take time'

Mick Fanning is attacked by a shark earlier this week.
Mick Fanning is attacked by a shark earlier this week.
"Big hugs" with family and friends are on the agenda when champion Australian surfer Mick Fanning returns home after a terrifying encounter with a shark in South Africa.

Fanning flew into Sydney on Tuesday (local time) after fighting off a great white shark that attacked him during a final of the World Surf League event at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa on Sunday.

The 34-year-old triple world champion was on his way home to the Gold Coast and, while pledging to return to competitive surfing, said his immediate plans were to spend time with family.

"I'm just cruising, just having family and friends around. Just big hugs," he said.

Fanning told journalists he was "doing OK" in the aftermath of the attack but expected to take some time to deal with the resultant emotional and mental trauma.

"It will probably take a couple of weeks, months - I don't know how long it's going to take," he said.

Fanning said he could not see himself not returning to surfing.

"I'm sure I'll go surfing, surfing has given me so much, it's something I do to clear my mind, it's something that gives me peace," he said.

"It's got me through the hardest times in my life. To turn my back on it wouldn't feel right."

And he will not turn his back on Jeffreys Bay, which he says is one of his favourite places on earth.

"I'll have to go back. It's going to be hard, but you've got to face these things front on."

But he admits he first needs to overcome "an emotional, mental sort of trauma right now".

Fanning was joined on his return to Australia by young friend and protege Julian Wilson, who was on his first wave of the final of the J-Bay event when the shark attacked.

He lauded the bravery of Wilson, who paddled toward him to help as the shark struck.

"He just gave all regard up for himself, and came for me," he said.

"He was so brave ... he's just a warrior. Thanks, bud."

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