Mick Fanning to retire from professional surfing at Rip Curl Pro
A great white shark couldn't catch Mick Fanning but Father Time has.
The three-time world champion has announced next month's Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach will be his last event on the World Surf League tour, 19 years after the blond kid from Coolangatta made his debut. Fanning made the announcement via his Facebook page.
Bells Beach is a special place for Fanning, whose win off the Victorian coast in 2001 led to him joining the world circuit the next year.
Mark Richards is the only Australian surfer with more world titles than Fanning, whose career included triumphs in 2007, 2009 and 2013, and six top-three finishes. But he has failed to find the drive to win another crown since enduring a tumultuous 2015.
After the year began with the breakdown of his marriage to Karissa Dalton, Fanning came face-to-face with a great white shark during the televised J-Bay Open final in South Africa. Knocked off his board, the Australian surfer punched the creature before it bit through Fanning's leash.
He returned home to take stock before being encouraged to rejoin the hunt for a fourth world crown. But it couldn't be that easy.
Hours before entering the water for the third round of the season-ending Pipeline Masters, he learned of the death of his older brother Peter. Riding waves of seawater and emotion, he bowed out in the semifinals.
"For me he's the strongest man I've ever met in my whole life," eventual champion Adriano De Souza said at the time.
Fanning competed in just five events in 2016 and his 2017 season was the first in more than a decade that the Queenslander failed to make a final.