One of Australia’s great sporting heroes has retired. Mick Fanning, surfing’s multiple world champion, has paddled out for his last pro tournament at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, Victoria, in March. WTW tips its hard hat to a sensational sporting career and a true Aussie icon.
Fanning’s retirement will be a sad day for his fans around the surfing globe.
At 36, Mick Fanning is about as big as sportsmen can get. In the toughest of competitive arenas, the World Surf League World Tour, the Aussie legend can look back on three world championships and 22 World Tour event wins in 16 tours. He also has an Order Of Australia for distinguished service to surfing and as a supporter of charities.
But even with all that to look back on, he’s probably still best known outside the surfing world for his encounter with a Great White shark at the J-Bay Open in 2015 in South Africa.
No matter how you look at it, he’s a top bloke.
Born in Penrith, west of Sydney, NSW, on June 13, 1981, Fanning started surfing as a five-year-old grommet, but didn’t really get serious until his family moved to Tweed Heads when he was 12. Along with schoolmate Joel Parkinson the pair began to surf north and south of the Queensland- NSW border and Fanning soon began to make a name for himself.
By 1996 he was considered one of Queensland’s best and managed a top-three place in the Aussie titles that year.
In 2001 the young Mick Fanning scored a wildcard entry in the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach in Victoria and had a win. From there he went on to finish as Rookie Of The Year in 2002, topping the podium at the Billabong Pro Jeffrey’s Bay and earning a place on the Association Of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour.
NO HOLDING BACK
A torn hamstring sidelined the champ in 2004, but it didn’t hold him back for long. After surgery and hard work, he was back on a board and setting alight the world’s breaks until, in 2007, he kicked off the year with a win at the Quciksilver Pro and followed up with another victory at the San Catarina Pro in Brazil, clinching his first world title.
The following year, 2008, went pear-shaped with a groin injury mid-season and he watched from the beach as his rating fell to eighth, but fully fit again for the following season he bested all comers and sealed his second world title at the famous Pipeline break on Oahu. Fanning was in fact eliminated by fellow Aussie Dean Morrison in the fourth round, but his points from a great year were unbeatable.
The beaches and surf breaks of the world were Fanning’s playground and workplace for next few years until, in December 2013, he claimed his third world title.
Fanning’s retirement will be a sad day for his fans around the surfing globe, but according to Fanning himself, the time is right.
“I feel like I’ve just lost the drive to compete day in, day out now,” he told sponsor Red Bull. “I feel that I just can’t give it 100% anymore. I’m just not enjoying it as much as I was in the past. I still love surfing and I’m still super excited by it, but I feel that there’s other paths for me to take at this stage in my life.
“After so many years on tour, it’s been so fun. It’s been a rollercoaster for sure, you have your peaks and valleys but, you know, when I look back on the tour its amazing memories – from building myself up to compete, to heat wins and event wins, celebrating with friends and just seeing places I never thought I’d even get to.”
Fanning is co-owner of the Balter Brewing Company with Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr and Bede Durbridge. So next time you’re having a drink, raise a Balter to a great Australian and spare a thought for all he’s achieved and the pride he’s earned for all Aussie surfers.
Images credit: Red-Bull photography.