Three-time champ taking a ‘personal year’, but plans to surf in a select few events
By Dashel Pierson
After a rollercoaster 2015 season – a year filled with a very public shark attack, overnight international spotlight and a family death during the Pipe Masters — Mick Fanning has decided to remove himself as a full-time competitor for the 2016 WSL season.
Can you blame him?
“Last year was definitely intense,” Fanning said in a statement from the WSL. “What happened at J-Bay, being in a title race and the unfortunate passing of my brother. There was so much buildup with everything happening. I got to a point at the end of the year where I felt empty. I didn’t feel like I had much to give back.”
All of which led Fanning to the decision to take a break.
“This year, I’m going to take some time off and have a bit of a personal year,” Mick said. “Just to regroup and re-stoke the fire.”
But White Lightning won’t go entirely dark; he’ll compete in a select few events.
“At this stage, I’m going to compete at Snapper and I’m going to compete at Bells and then I’m going to take some time off from there,” he said. “They [Snapper and Bells] are two events that I love and I’d go crazy if I were sitting at home and couldn’t go surf Snapper. Bells is like a second home as well. From then on, I feel like I have to take some time away from the tour to get out of that sort of zone to see where my head is at.”
Besides being his home spot, it’s no wonder why Fanning wants to surf at Snapper. He’s been reaping the rewards of a solid string of swells in the past few weeks, sans singlet. A betting man would put his money on Mick.
Perhaps more surprising is Mick’s decision to return to the wave where he brushed shoulders with death, in the process becoming a household name and tabloid celebrity across the world.
“I want to go back to J-Bay,” Fanning said. “I feel like there’s something there that I want to go and face. I want to make sure that I scratch that off the list.”
Fanning’s one of the toughest in the game. And the hardships of 2015 only reaffirmed this fact. It was a season so taxing that the WSL utilized it in their ad campaign, “You can’t script this.” But Mick’s ability to overcome that instability – and to return to Jeffreys Bay – shows true transcendence.
“If I go and do that event, there are going to be a lot of eyes on me,” Mick said about J-Bay. “A lot of people will be seeing what reaction I’ll have. I don’t think I’ll be paddling out early for heats, but I think after a surf or two, I’ll feel fine.”