February 28, 2018 / 1:42 PM / 22 days ago

Australia's shark-punching Fanning to hang up his surfboard

(Reuters) - Australian Mick Fanning has done it all from winning three world titles to punching a shark but time has caught up with the surfing icon, who will retire as a professional next month.

Mick Fanning of Australia, who survived a shark attack, reacts during a media conference in Sydney, Australia July 21, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

The 36-year-old, nicknamed ‘White Lightning’, announced on Wednesday that he will hang up his surfboard in March after the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, where he won his first Champions Tour title as a wildcard in 2001.

Fanning claimed world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2013 but grabbed international headlines for his encounters with two sharks in three years at the J-Bay Open.

He was dragged off his board and had to punch a great white to escape before being helped from the water in South Africa in 2015 live on TV, the footage of the attack being seen more than 25 million times on YouTube.

Another encounter two years later saw him being plucked to safety.

“I’ve decided the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach will be my last event as a full-time competitor on the World Surf League Championship Tour,” Fanning wrote on Instagram on Wednesday.

“The tour has given me so much but I need a fresh challenge. I still love the game but can’t find the motivation and dedication required to compete for world titles anymore.

“I will be competing at the opening event at home on the Gold Coast and then wrapping things up at the Rip Curl Pro.”

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris

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