I needed a toothbrush. I needed a can of deodorant. I needed much more than that.
Being a professional journalist I bought a new toothbrush and a can of deodorant for the interview. I’d just had four days in a Surf Camp located in the cornfields to the north of Hossegor. I was the sole Australian, amongst a freewheeling gang of the European party Diaspora. There were Swiss installation artists with beautiful eyes and immaculately maintained Split screen VWs. There were silent brooding Finnish men, who blazed massive reefers and drank beer all day, whilst cooking huge cote de boeuf slabs over a wire grill on the fire. There were London bands, fucking brilliant musicians and funny cunts, jamming all night long with proper PAs and sets that had wowed Glastonbury. There were German branding gurus, Belgian PR types, Bali gym owners and Scottish filmmakers. And the owner, a wiry 50-something Jersey surf nazi who had first camped in his car at Hossegor in the '70s and then spent days trying to find people to surf with. He’d fell in love with the place and basically never left. I mean, why would you? There was great food, late nights, buckets of red wine and bongs, laughter, dancing and shit talk. Endless, hilarious, intoxicant-fueled shit talk. I felt I had made friends for life. I felt like I could have lost a couple too. On balance though, I think I was ahead.
And then, just like that, there was Monday morning and my interview with Mick Fanning. I needed a toothbrush. I needed a can of deodorant. I needed much more than that. I’d helped organize a UK journalist’s mate Podcast interview with Mick and wanted a chat myself. The setting up of the interview had been ridiculously straightforward. Mick has been helpful, professional and easy. Everything the modern surfing star isn’t supposed to be. He’d agreed to a date and a time, well in advance, and stuck to it. That date and time was Monday morning, six days before the waiting period of the Quik Pro France. Did I mention I needed a new toothbrush and a can of deodorant?
Mick opened the door with a rueful grin. Now he didn’t look as his bad as me. Mick Fanning could never look as bad as me, but he didn’t look his normal shade of bulletproof. As he put my nervous mate at ease, as he made a coffee and generally smoothed things over, he told us how he’d just had a big few days at Oktoberfest. He’d been in Munich with Jack Freestone, Mitch Crews Corey Smith and a few mates, drinking glasses of beer bigger than his head for two days. He’d arrived in France the night before. “I’ve got a day to get my life together,” he laughed, “and a week to get ready for the comp. That should be enough, right?”
I’m pretty sure that question was rhetorical. No one needed any advice from me that morning. And Mick Fanning never needs my advice period. However if he had genuinely wanted it, I would have said, ‘Yes Mick, there is enough time.’ I would have reminded him that he’s won this event four times, more than any other surfer. I would have said that hangovers are temporary and that class is permanent. I might have pointed out that over the last three years he still has the highest average heat total here, and that’s despite not actually bagging a good result. I could have pointed out that he the best heat average in beach-breaks of anyone on Tour.
I didn’t though. Instead I listened to him riff on the fun he had river surfing in Munich, on what a game changer Kelly’s Wave is, how being the youngest of five kids had shaped him, on his front row seat for the Andy and Kelly rivalry and how he is approaching his last years on tour. Now all this, I promise, I will transcribe, write down and tell the Tracks readers what he said. But right now, with the Quik Pro France about to kick off in a forecast that looks red-hot, I thanked him for his time, for his contribution to surfing and left him to his week, his life. He might not be in the World Title race, he might have warmed up in Germany rather than in the gym, but he remains the most winningest surfer in France. As I grabbed my toothbrush and my can of deodorant, ever the professional you see, I really hoped he might make it five.