Mick Fanning unharmed in shark attack

Mick Fanning on shark attack (0:42)

Surfer Mick Fanning discusses the shark attack he experienced during the World Surf League's J-Bay Open. (0:42)

Three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark Sunday during a competition off the coast of South Africa but escaped unharmed.

The World Surf League canceled the J-Bay Open shortly after the attack, saying in a statement that "the safety of our athletes is a priority."

Fanning, who battled the shark for a few seconds before it swam away, was visibly shaken after being rescued by crews on jetskis and boats.

"I just can't believe it," said Fanning, who was nearly overcome with emotion on multiple instances during his interview with the World Surf League's official website. "I'm just tripping. ... To walk away from that, I'm just so stoked."

Fanning, 34, was in the water in Jeffreys Bay -- off South Africa's eastern cape -- waiting for his turn to compete when the shark attacked him.

"All of the sudden, I just had this instinct that something was behind me," the Australian said. "And then all of the sudden, I felt like I started getting pulled underwater. Then the [shark] came up, and I was on my board and it was like right there, and I saw the whole thing thrashing around.

"I was getting dragged under by my leg wrap, and then I felt like it kicked me off, but it was still there, and I was still attached to my board. I felt like it was dragging me underwater, and then my leg wrap broke, and I started swimming and screaming."

Fanning said he was "totally fine," claiming that the only things the shark damaged were his surfboard and leg wrap.

World Surf League commissioner Kieren Perrow said he does not believe that a surfer had ever been attacked by a shark during a competition prior to Sunday's incident.

"It's shaken everyone," Perrow said. "We're just happy to see [Fanning] safe and alive. ... It's not something you believe would ever happen, and to see it unfold on live [television] is incredibly scary for everyone."