Right now Mick Fanning is at one of the most interesting stages in his career. After using last year to decompress after a string of personal tragedies, intense World Title races and the small matter of a shark attack, 2017 has been unlike any other for the three times World Champion. Despite his surfing being on-point, he currently lies outside the top 10. On the flipside, he’s enjoying his time in tour more than at any other stage. The retirement question is there, but for now remains unanswered. Tracks caught up with Mick to talk through his career and see where his mind is at right now. 

On Kelly’s Wave

“It was cool to see what can be done. When you have eight of the best women and 10 of the best guys, pushing each other, it was really nerve racking. You just had the two waves, so you can’t blow it. Away from the professional side of things, for people that can’t get to the ocean, it is going to change lives. As surfing grows with these wave pools, people that perhaps would never have surfed in are going to be doing incredible surfing in these things. I’m so interested to see where it goes.” 

Mick knows it's not often Kelly gives you a wave, so when he does you make the most of it. Photo: WSL

On Flicking the Switch

“Even when I was coming 4th or 5th, we were all so far behind Kelly and Andy we didn’t know how to beat them. Then I finished the two years in a row as third and I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m done with this, I’m going to skip second and win.’ The back-end of 2006 gave me huge confidence as I was consistent. Then I made a real mental switch. There was times when I felt unbeatable. It got to a point where I had all my ducks in a row, had my boards, my body all right and I just had to trust in that and move forward. I learned to be 100 per cent every day and I had these mental tricks that would get me there. I’d do a stretch to turn the body on, then I’d do visualization and then the boxes were ticked and I was totally ready to go. That was my edge, that mental strength, which was based on my preparation. I wasn’t the most talented, but that strength allowed me to win those world titles.”

Mick suggests that it was his mental strength that gave him the edge when chasing world titles.

On The Shark Aftermath

“I got home to my house and every Australian TV news station was out the front of my house. I couldn’t go down the street without getting chased by paparazzi.  I hid in my house for five days, just waiting for people to disappear. I remember one day the Hazzas picked me up on their ski and we surfed Snapper. Then on the way back the media twigged and we had a Channel 7 news chopper following us home on the ski. It was like a chase scene out of a movie, so friggin bizarre. I was lucky I had my close mates and family to support me, but I never asked for that type of attention. It was overwhelming, but I know who I am and I know what I do. I didn’t get bogged down, but I was trying to defuse it and I didn’t know how.”

While the shark gave up after a few seconds, the mainstream media hunted Mick for weeks. 

On Taking A Year Off

“I was scared to take that step away from the tour. It’s like if in you are in job you’ve had for ages, but you’ve had enough and you decide to leave. The thing was I had I had no idea where that would leave me. It’s all I’d ever done. I had to sit down with my bosses and see what was possible, but everyone was so supportive. To put myself in different positions was uplifting. When I made that decision a massive weight just lifted off my shoulders. I could feel my inner energy slowly coming back and I could start working on myself.”

BEHIND THE SUN from Matt Kleiner on Vimeo.

On Tour Life Now

I’m so glad I came back this year, it’s the first time I haven’t worried about winning a world title. I’ve been stoked on experiencing the tour and the people and remembering how fun it really is. It’s been a different experience, there’s less anxiety, less of that internal struggle to stay driven. I’ve had way more fun.

Mick congratulating Gabriel Medina after losing to him in the quarter-finals at the MEO, Rip Curl Pro in Portugal. WSL/Poullenot

On The Future

I want to go and freesurf these different waves while I can still perform at a good level. I don’t want to get to my mid-40s and not be able to surf them at my peak. You know last year showed me there are so many other waves and I’d love to explore the journey of finding the waves. On those missions sometimes you’re the conductor and steering the group and other times you’re just a passenger and just sit back with little expectation. But either way, just enjoying the experience is the key. I’ve a real thirst for that now. We’ll have to see where it takes me.