Interview: Mick Fanning
Finding The Spark
By Mike Jennings
Twelve months ago, two time World Champion Mick Fanning had just completed his tenth year at the top level of professional surfing and found himself sitting in the strange and unfamiliar position of 11th on the World Tour. The only other time he had finished outside the top ten was back in 2004 and that was due to major injury. Fast forward to now and he's looking back on a year with two major trophies and a legit Title campaign, technically in the race on the season's final day. We gave him a phone call last week to talk about his 2012 season. We asked questions, he answered them, we asked some more, he answered and so on... legend!
CW: So this time last year after skipping Hawaii you'd just finished outside of the top ten for the first time in about eight years, how were you feeling going into 2012?
MF: I was excited but nervous in the same way. 2011 wasn't a really good year for me. I didn't enjoy it at all and I had injuries. I just wanted go into 2012 and have a lot of fun and to tell you the truth I was pretty overweight at this time last year, so I was just stripping back the KGs and training a hell of a lot so I could get some boards that would float me.
Skipping Hawaii was sort of a mixed decision I made after the Europe leg. The injury just wasn't getting any better while I was on the road and I wasn't having any fun with a bulged disc in my neck. I went to The Search event in San Francisco because it was a Rip Curl event and I had pretty much made my mind up that it was going to be the last event of the year for me.
Were you lacking joy in your surfing at the time?
Definitely. It was just something where I had a tough year with boards and any time I went surfing I didn't know if I was going to get pains down my arm or if my neck was going to spasm out so it just wasn't enjoyable whatsoever.
Did a break feel important? After more than ten years of the tour, plus the QS and juniors, were you lacking energy going into competitions?
Yeah definitely, I just didn't have that spark. I didn't have that desire to get up and wake up every morning and give everything my 100% and I was sort of getting to a place where I wasn't burnt out, but I was definitely tired. So it was good to have that break and I spoke to some other sports people during that time and asked, "What should I do?" And they were like, "Look, have a few weeks off and just do whatever you want. If you want to eat pies eat pies, if you want to go and have a beer have a beer, and just not have any structure to it." And it really helped clear the head and made me get that desire back.
You had two pretty big wins this year and being in the Title race coming into Pipe is not something you'd have too many complaints about I imagine.
I went into the year not worrying, I wasn't thinking about World Titles, the main focus on the year was to try and surf well and just have a lot of fun doing it and have a lot of fun on tour and I achieved that, so I reached my goals there and then to win two events and be in the Title race, I wouldn't say I was in the Title race coming to Pipe, but being in the Title race for a while was pretty exciting.
If you had to list a highlight for the past year, what would you put down?
There were a few, obviously winning Chopes, that was a crazy one, and Bells too, but then also the three weeks I spent in Fiji this year was incredible. The first day we got there we had amazing waves, the most perfect Cloudbreak I've ever seen, and then, to have that giant swell as well, and hanging out with Ace before the event was really cool.
Did Chopes feel like a bit of a landmark for you? I know you've made finals and stuff there but a win in one of those big barrelling lefts…
For sure, other than my second I hadn't really done that well at Chopes, and it gave me a lot of confidence in left barrels. I think Fiji did that before Chopes actually, and when I went to Chopes this year it was the first time I ever went to that event thinking, "Oh, I can win this." In past years you hope to win (laughs). But it was definitely a big change in attitude and mindset as well.
The use of quads, was that pretty new? Was that from Cloudbreak onwards or had you been experimenting with them before?
No, the first time I rode them was after Fiji. I jumped on one of Julian Wilson's boards, we were doing step offs out at Kirra, and the speed in the barrel was crazy. And then that board that I rode at Chopes I'd only ridden it as a quad maybe twice before I started riding it in heats. I was learning more and more about it every heat, so it was really new to me.
Yeah… and you won, which is kind of a good result. But there's been a definite shift then, in big surf anyway, that quads seem to be the way to go?
Yes and no. I think Tahiti was so perfect and it’s such a perfect wave just for quads, but as soon as you get out on the face they don't feel as good as thrusters, so you've got to toss up whether you're going for barrels the whole time or turns or a bit of both When the conditions are stormy I don't really like riding the quad either, it doesn't feel like I can get it to turn as sharp or move as quick as a thruster, so it's not the be all and all that's for sure.
And was there a change in your board design after jumping on one of Kolohe's Mayhem shapes at Trestles the year before?
Yeah. I think in your career you run into a couple of boards that change your outlook on what sort of boards you should ride. I went and ordered a couple off Mayhem, and I saw one of Kolohe's and asked to ride it, my boards weren't going that great and I thought, “I've got nothing to lose,” and in 2011 that was probably my funnest event. So it was definitely one of the boards that changed my outlook on surfing. I got some boards off Mayhem and then worked with DH to show him what I was feeling to create a board I'm super happy with as well, so it was good to bounce back on the board situation in 2012.
Let's talk about Pipe and watching Parko win his World Title. As soon as you were out of the race in the morning, you donned the Parko t-shirt and were able to celebrate with him. It's probably been a while since you were on the same team, was it good to get back to that?
To tell you the truth, going into Pipe I had pretty damn slim chances. I was going into Pipe to try and have a lot of fun and finish the year off and give it my all in that last event. Even from before the contest, I was supporting him the whole way through. I was making sure he had a fair bit of space because I know what it's like at that time, everyone wants a bit of you, and as soon as my heat was done I put on the Parko hat and sat in the yard all day and was like a nervous brother pretty much.
How intense was it? It was gnarly for us watching it on the webcast, it must have been even worse for those close to him and being there.
I think some people were getting a bit too far ahead of themselves, it was sort of awesome but even with seven minutes to go people were getting way too excited, I was like, just hold on you guys, Kelly only needs an eight and he can get those in his sleep, but when it all went down it was amazing. I'm sort of glad that I wasn't in the event and that I got to sit on the beach and actually take it all in, and one day I'll be able to tell the kids and even Parko's kids what was going on that day from a different perspective which will be pretty cool.
Yeah, to take it all in as a mate rather than a competitor.
Definitely. I had no agendas other than just being there in support. I wasn't doing anything or saying anything, I was just there, and sometimes that's the best thing you can do, just be there. I was psyched to enjoy it and try and keep it under wraps for a while but there were definitely some nervous times throughout the day.
So now you're back in Cooly for Christmas and New Years and the summer holidays, it looks like you're surfing a lot… not a whole lot of sitting around and holidaying… what's summer about for you at the moment?
You know what, because I cut my foot in Hawaii, I sort of had ten days off through that, and so once I got home, I was keen to surf but I was only going to surf if we had fun waves and we’ve had fun waves ever since I've been home. And DH made me a stack of boards I'm super psyched on so I thought while there's waves I might as well surf, but I've still been enjoying hanging with friends, a lot of my friends work so it's been good to get them while they’re on holidays and go surfing and have a couple of beers here and there, it's been great.
When does the 2013 campaign kick into gear?
Umm, well I'm playing touch footy tonight, so that will be my first run in a while. If I don't have a heart attack tonight probably start doing something tomorrow.
Cool. Finally, Taylor Knox won’t be on the Tour next year. You guys travelled together and looked like you were really tight.
Yeah we travelled and stayed together the last two or three years the whole time so it's going to be different, I'll probably have a lot more down time because he's non-stop. But it was epic to be able to travel with your favourite surfer, there's nothing better and to become extremely good friends was another thing. Travelling with him, it wasn't like going to surf school, it was like going to man school and learning about life every day.
That's rad. Man School with Taylor Knox!
Yeah it was epic. He's a gem of a human.
Awesome. Thanks for your time and all the best for 2013 legend.
No worries mate.
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