Three-time world champion surfer Mick Fanning will return to the scene of the infamous shark attack next month when the sports elite converge on the world-renowned right-hand point break of Jeffreys Bay in South Africa.
Last year's J-Bay Open became the subject of international headlines when the Australian surfer was was attacked on live television by what is believed to be a 12-to-15-foot Great White Shark.
The attack took place during the final heat of the event as Fanning was waiting for his opening wave. Both Fanning and fellow countryman Julian Wilson survived the ordeal, with the event ultimately called off. Fanning went on to compete throughout the remainder of the year.
Following a season that involved the shark attack, a world runner-up finish and the tragic passing of his brother, Fanning is taking a personal year in 2016, surfing in only select events.
However, the Australian icon, who has won the event three times (2002, 2006, 2014) has committed to returning to Jeffreys Bay for the event which runs from July 6 to July 17.
"When I decided I was only going to do a few events this season, J-Bay was always on the cards," Fanning said.
"Even if I decided I didn't want to surf in the J-Bay Open, I was always going to go back. I've had so many great memories there that to leave J-Bay on the note from last year just didn't seem right. I want to go back and right the wrongs and move forward."
The World Surf League has enhanced its surveillance and response capabilities for this season's event with additional water patrols in the lineup, and is augmenting this with emerging sonar technologies to increase information available to event officials.
"I trust the WSL and the measures they've put in place," Fanning said. "It is, however, one of those things where it is the ocean and, ultimately, there is not a lot anyone can do. I'm thinking positive and looking forward to coming back.
"The first surf is going to be a little bit tricky to get through my head. I've surfed lots of different places and have seen sharks since then and haven't felt too concerned. It's all part of surfing. We're not going to go out and put a cage around J-Bay. We want to surf the wave and keeping everyone safe is a collective thing between the WSL and the surfers."
Much speculation has occurred regarding whether the three-time WSL Champion will return to full-time competition at the end of the season. As of the J-Bay Open, Fanning remains undecided about plans for this year and beyond.
"It's been really fulfilling for me personally to go to places where I haven't been able to before. I've made an effort to distance myself from the tour. As far as 2017 goes, I couldn't tell you right now - whether I'll be back or not full time.
"I probably couldn't tell you what's going to happen in a month. I don't know. I'm enjoying the freedom of doing different things and having no schedule right now."
When competition commences, up first will be Mick Fanning (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA) and Alejo Muniz (BRA) in the opening heat of Round 1.
J-BAY OPEN ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
- Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA), Alejo Muniz (BRA)
- Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Ryan Callinan (AUS)
- Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Keanu Asing (HAW)
- Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Josh Kerr (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS)
- Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Dusty Payne (HAW), Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
- Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Davey Cathels (AUS), Steven Sawyer (ZAF)
- Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Kelly Slater (USA), Matt Banting (AUS)
- Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kolohe Andino (USA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
- Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Adam Melling (AUS)
- Heat 10: Caio Ibelli (BRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA)
- Heat 11: Julian Wilson (AUS), Nat Young (USA), Jack Freestone (USA)
- Heat 12: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Michel Bourez (PYF), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)