Mick Fanning has made a winning return to Jeffreys Bay.

The Australian claimed victory in the opening heat of the World Surf League event in South Africa - his first competitive surf at the venue since a shark attack in last year's final.

Fanning made headlines across the globe as he fought off a shark midway through the 2015 decider against compatriot Julian Wilson.

The triple world champion said last week he was determined to compete again at this year's J-Bay Open despite the traumatic end to last year's event.

Advertisement

This 2016 J-Bay Open got underway on Wednesday with Fanning competing in the opening heat of the first round against American Conner Coffin and Brazil's Alejo Muniz.

Fanning's two-wave total of 13.67 out of 20 was enough to win the heat by 2.87 points, less than 24 hours after he cleared himself to compete despite suffering a sprained ankle last week.

The 35-year-old said his heavily strapped left ankle had been a bigger concern going into the heat than his memories of last year.

"It's been a big week actually," Fanning said.

"Got here early and then hurt my ankle so I had to sit on the sidelines and watch the amazing waves go through. It was just like torture ... got it taped up and once you're out in the heat you don't feel anything."It was great to get back out."

Fanning's win means he earns direct passage into the third round of the event.He said that extra time between heats can only help the management of his ankle injury."

Each day just gets better and better so hopefully by the end of the week it'll be all good," he said."It's a gorgeous day out here so just going to live it up."

- AAP