world cham­pion surfer

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents - In­ter­view by HAN­NAH JAMES

Surf­ing leg­end Mick Fan­ning.

You’re known as a down-to-earth bloke, but do you have any se­cret diva de­mands?

No. I just need my equip­ment: surf­boards; wet­suits; leg ropes; wax; sun­screen; ex­er­cise rollers – and I don’t rely on other peo­ple to bring them for me. If you can’t do it your­self, you can’t ex­pect some­one else to do it [for you]. When I was first on tour I was re­ally su­per­sti­tious, us­ing the same pack of wax for the whole event, but now I try to elim­i­nate those [habits] so you don’t be­come de­pen­dent on any­thing. As you get along with life, you re­alise it’s all in your head.

In July you won the World Surf League event at Jef­freys Bay, the site of your shark en­counter last year. How long does the high last from a win like that?

When you win an event, it al­ways stays with you for a long time, but it’s not like you’re bak­ing your­self a cake ev­ery day and cel­e­brat­ing. By the next week, you’re re­play­ing things that hap­pened. I like to go back and see how it played out – but when you win, you aren’t too crit­i­cal of your­self.

What strikes the most fear into you: sharks, groin in­juries or Kelly Slater?

Prob­a­bly groin in­juries. You never want to be in­jured. The other two are scary, but not that scary.

Kelly said last year’s semi-fi­nal at J-bay was the only time he was happy to lose to you – if he’d won, he’d have been fight­ing the shark in­stead. Are you a good loser?

In hind­sight, that was good for him! You learn over the years that los­ing isn’t that bad. If you do your best, what­ever the out­come is, you’ve got to be happy with your­self.

You were praised for your courage in re­turn­ing to the surf. But how are you with spi­ders and heights?

Spi­ders, fine; heights, fine; snakes, not so much. I get pet­ri­fied of snakes. Look, I’m just the same as ev­ery­one else – I’m not the bravest hu­man on earth. You just have to put things in per­spec­tive; some things that hap­pen in the ocean are hope­fully a one-off.

With that mo­ment – and with your wins – you joined the pan­theon of surf­ing greats. How does that feel?

I would never put my­self in that cat­e­gory. I don’t do it for other peo­ple’s recog­ni­tion, I do it be­cause I love it, so I can’t put my­self in that realm – it feels a bit weird.

This year’s win must have been a great mo­ment to cap off a ter­ri­ble 12 months for you [af­ter Fan­ning’s shark en­counter, his brother died in December 2015, and he an­nounced his di­vorce in Fe­bru­ary].

There was a lit­tle bit that hap­pened, but peo­ple fo­cused on the bad things. I learnt a lot about my­self and learnt to grow within my­self. With all the me­dia at­ten­tion, I was happy to dis­ap­pear, recharge the bat­ter­ies and see what hap­pens next.

There was a pub­lic out­pour­ing of sup­port for you when your

“You have to [have] per­spec­tive; some things that hap­pen in the ocean are hope­fully a one-off”

brother passed away. Does that help, or is griev­ing in pub­lic harder? It’s awe­some when you know so many peo­ple are there to sup­port you. I had amaz­ing friends and fam­ily in my cor­ner, too. It wasn’t some­thing that I wanted – to be in the pub­lic eye at that time – but it was great to have that sup­port. What’s more sat­is­fy­ing: a big win or a per­fect morn­ing surf­ing at home? That’s changed over the past few years. When I was younger, the win was more sat­is­fy­ing, but now it’s more about just surf­ing and en­joy­ing the mo­ment. You haven’t par­tic­i­pated in the full cham­pi­onship tour this year – what have you been up to? I went to Alaska, then Lord Howe Is­land, then Mel­bourne’s Good Beer Week – things I wouldn’t get to do if I was on tour full-time. Surf­ing in Alaska was cold – the first jump in re­ally hurts – but the ex­cite­ment level is so high and wet­suits are so good now… plus, once you’re mov­ing, you warm up quick. It helped me get per­spec­tive on what I want to do and what I’m here for. It was a chance to stop, get off the grid and do things on my time, rather than a set sched­ule. Af­ter the an­nounce­ment that surf­ing will be a sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, you of­fered to coach com­peti­tors. Won’t you be com­pet­ing your­self? Who knows? Four years is a long time. If I’m still com­pet­i­tive at that age, maybe I’ll put my hand up to com­pete, but I’m be­ing re­al­is­tic. There will be younger guys who are surf­ing a lot bet­ter than me at that stage, and I’d feel awk­ward if I took that away from them. But it would be awe­some to be part of the team – maybe I’ll get the pom­poms and cheer for them on the beach. What might life af­ter surf­ing com­pe­ti­tions look like? I’m still en­joy­ing surf­ing. Do­ing trips like I did this year re­it­er­ated that there’s more to life than com­pet­ing day in and day out. So my goal this year is to put my­self in a place I never thought I’d get to – if there’s a re­ally cool trip, yeah, I’ll go. And I’m go­ing to do some cool things with en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. Per­haps your mate Chris Hemsworth could put in a word for you, and you could be Mar­vel’s new su­per­hero? Mis­ter In­vis­i­ble, maybe. I think I’ve got a rough head. Nah, Chris is a lot bet­ter at that stuff than I’ll ever be, so I’ll leave that to him.

´´with all the me­dia at­ten­tion, I was happy to dis­ap­pear and recharge the bat­ter­ies´´

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