Mick Fanning Announces Retirement
Mick Fanning to retire from the pro tour
Australia's Mick Fanning announced this week that he would surf the first two contests of the 2018 WSL Championship Tour season, then intended to retire from competitive surfing. Considered one of the most successful competitors in the history of the sport, Fanning amassed three world title and won 22 world tour contests. He was also well loved and respected by all of the competitors on tour.
Introducing White Lightning
At 22 years old, Fanning qualified for the world tour in 2002. He finished the year ranked fifth in the world and came away with ASP Rookie of the Year honors. In 2003, he went one better and finished fourth. Considered "the fastest surfer on tour" at the time, the speed and accuracy with which he attacked every section earned him the moniker "White Lightning."
Top of his game
Growing up on the points of Australia's Gold Coast, Fanning has always had an extremely polished style and impeccable technique. Once he got to the "big leagues," it proved to be a huge asset as he shot up the ratings. By 2004, he was at the top of his game.
Going out at Bells Beach
"I've always had in mind that my last event on Tour was going to be Bells," said Fanning, who won the prestigious Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach as a wildcard in 2001. "That's basically where I started my career, it was my first ever CT win, and I feel really connected down there."
Parko reaches out
Fanning and Joel Parkinson grew up together in Australia, competed against each other for decades, and still maintain a fast friendship. "Love you mate! Congratulations on hanging up the jersey," wrote Parkinson on Instagram. "Now just go get amazing waves!"
Down but not out
For Fanning, it wasn't always easy. Early in his career, he had to reckon with the loss of his brother in a tragic car accident. In 2004, Fanning was subjected to another test when a mistimed floater in Indonesia resulted in a near career-ending injury when he tore his hamstring clean off the bone in his hip. World title aspirations for the year were immediately dashed. He spent the entire season rehabbing and refocusing.
Fanning came into the 2005 season with a head full of steam. He was razor-sharp in the first contest of the year at Snapper Rocks and took the win in front of the hometown crowd. A few weeks later, he ran it back at Mark Richards' 4-Star QS comp in Newcastle. He was rolling. That year, he'd win three CT events, finish runner-up in another and make four semifinals.
A first for Australia
World title glory finally came in 2007 when Fanning brought home Australia's first world title in 15 years. He dedicated it to his late brother Sean.
Moment of triumph
Twice in Fanning's career, he clinched his world titles at the Pipe Masters, the last contest of the season. Able to stay focused and block out all of the noise, when the moment did finally come in 2009 and 2013, the emotional release was on display for the whole beach to see.
Peaks and valleys
"After so many years on tour, it's been so fun," says Fanning. "It's been a rollercoaster for sure, you have your peaks and valleys, but you know, when I look back on my time on tour, it's 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."
The infamous shark incident
Once again in the race for the 2015 title, two minutes into the final of the J-Bay Open in South Africa, Fanning was hit from below by a large great white shark. He threw a few punches and was able to escape from the animal, but he was obviously rattled to the core. The incident made international news, and while Mick was physically fine, it would take a while to collect his wits. Miraculously, he was in the hunt for the title at the end of the year, but was once again faced with the shocking news that one of his brothers had unexpectedly passed away. At the same time, he was also dealing with the end of his marriage. The emotional baggage was simply too much to bear by the time the WSL season ended.
Fanning took the 2016 season off as a "personal" year. Rip Curl sent him to a bunch of far-flung destinations to help him hit the reset button and rekindle the fire. It was during this time he also started to apply his acumen as a businessman. Along with Parkinson, Bede Durbidge, Josh Kerr and a few other friends, he invested in the launch of Balter Brewing Company. The beer company has since taken off. He also inked a deal to serve as an ambassador for Mercedes Benz, took an ownership stake in Creatures of Leisure, and most recently, launched his own line of soft-top surfboards.
The next chapter
And now, after 16 years on tour, Fanning is stepping away to start the next chapter of his life. We can't wait to see what's next from a surfer that's already given us so much.