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2015 Man of the Year: Mick Fanning

Mick Fanning
Mick Fanning / AP
• December 31, 2015 8:00 pm

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If one takes a moment to think of the typical surfer, images of a figure resembling Sean Penn’s character from the 1982 comedy film Fast Times at Ridgemont High may come to mind. Penn plays a high school senior named Jeff Spicoli who can be best described as a stoned surfer locked in an epic struggle with Mr. Hand, his ultra-strict history teacher. Spicoli smokes marijuana, disregards his schoolwork, goes on joyrides, and, of course, loves surfing.

Not all surfers are such layabouts, however. One Australian pro surfer earned himself eternal respect after an incident one July day in South Africa.

Mick Fanning, a three-time world champion, was competing at the J-Bay Open surfing competition in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, when an unexpected visitor came up to him while in the water.

"I was just sitting there. I was just about to start moving, and then I felt something grab, just get stuck in my leg rope," said Manning.

It was a shark—and a hungry one it seems—that Jeff Corwin, conservationist and host of the Animal Planet show "Ocean Mysteries," believes could have been 12 or 13 feet long based on the size of the fin.

Rather than panic or try to run away, Manning summoned his inner-manliness in a way that would make Ernest Hemingway proud and punched the shark in the back.

An epic battle then ensued, and Manning achieved a flawless victory in fighting off the shark before a rescue boat came to his aid.

Manning was remarkably unharmed and proved himself worthy of being a man of the year for 2015, showing that grit and bravery can overcome one of nature’s most notorious predators.

Jeff Spicoli would be proud.

Published under: Men of the Year